In the fall of 1972, while on a tour of the Bible Lands, I stood on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece, where the Apostle Paul preached his magnificent discourse recorded in Acts 17. That was back in the days when “pet rocks” were the rage, so as a memento I took home a palm-sized piece of that rocky hill. My rock knows only one command: “Stay.” And for the past 39 years on my desk it has done just that. It is a faithful rock, and I can count on it to be there for me.
A rock indicates firmness, and a big enough rock indicates immovability and permanence. No doubt that is why one insurance company’s symbol is the Rock of Gibraltar, a huge stone known for its tendency to stay put. The company’s appeal to prospective customers is that it is just as reliable, and that each customer can have a “piece of the rock.”
The true “Rock” is Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead and exalted as Lord and Head of the Church, his Body. If you have made him your Lord, you are born again of God’s spirit and, via that gift of holy spirit, you have “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27). You definitely have a piece of the Rock. What’s more, as a member in particular of the Body of Christ, you are a piece of the Rock! Because you have been born again of “incorruptible” seed (1 Pet. 1:23 – KJV), you are guaranteed everlasting life in Paradise. That means that you will forever be firm, immovable, and permanent.
But what about now? The world is definitely a hard place in which to live. How can each of us be a “rock”? How can we exhibit the qualities of a rock in our practice of Christianity? That is what this simple word study of “rock” and “stone” is about. We will see that we are to be “living stones” who speak out in witness to “the Rock from which we were hewn,” and that as we stand together on The Rock, we can rebuild the wall of truth that tradition has torn down.
In contemporary language, to be “rocked” is to be moved or swayed powerfully with excitement or emotion. And we in the USA know that if something “rocks,” that means it is very impressive, remarkable, and extraordinary. Well, JESUS rocks, and as a “chip off the Old Rock,” so can you. As you walk with him, you can powerfully move people to excitement and emotion by the testimony of your life. The life of Christ within you can be “manifest in your mortal flesh” to the end that people see how impressive, remarkable, and extraordinary our Savior truly is.
A record in the Old Testament shows that rocks were used to remind people of God’s deliverance. When the people of Israel had crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Joshua used stones to remind the people of their deliverance from Egypt.
(4) So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe,
(5) and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,
(6) to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?‘
(7) tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
(8) So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.
(9) Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
Passing over the Jordan consummated God’s redemption of His people, Israel, from the land of bondage to the land of promise. In Joshua 4:1, note that “the whole nation” crossed over, and thus each one had the opportunity to partake of all that God made available there. Today, each Christian has been redeemed from the bondage of sin unto a life of limitless possibilities in Christ. Not all, however, are faithful to continue walking the path of righteousness God has set before them. But you can be.
The stones were set up as a permanent memorial, a witness, to remind the people of God’s deliverance and to inspire them to believe His promises for the future. They were taken from the middle of the Jordan and set in the camp of Israel, which was at Gilgal, in the Promised Land. A second set of stones was taken from the middle of the Jordan and set down on the East side of the Jordan to mark the place where the Priests had stood and where the miracle occurred. As living stones, you and I have been taken from the middle of a sick and dying world, so to speak. We are still in the world, but we are not of the world, and we are each to be a rock in a hard place. As we build our lives on The Rock, Jesus Christ, our faithfulness will inspire others to say of us as well: “They are here to this day.”
Space prohibits me from quoting much of Joshua 24, but Joshua gathered the people and reminded them of how God had delivered them from the Egyptians and given them a land of plenty. He exhorted them to put away the false gods they had served before and serve only Yahweh. They said they would, so he made a covenant with them that day.
(26) And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.
(27) “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
(28) Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.
Joshua set up the stone under an oak tree, which in Scripture represents longevity, faithfulness, and steadfastness. The stone, however, would outlast even the oak. He said that the stone was to be witness because it had heard all the words of Yahweh. Yes, the stone remained as a reminder, but it could not speak.
Each of us once dwelt on the wrong side of the unbridgeable chasm between man and God. We decided to leave that bondage and run to God’s heart, but we came to the edge of the chasm and could not cross by ourselves. We cried out to God, and He snatched us to the safety of His side, putting us far above our spiritual Adversary. Let us now, therefore, put away any gods we previously served, such as fear, pride, envy, lust, selfishness, and serve the Lord as living stones of witness.
Throughout the Old Testament God is often referred to as a rock, and that indicated a place of safety and refuge. In Exodus 17, when the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and had no water, God told Moses to strike the rock at Horeb with his staff, and water flowed out to quench their thirst. That is a clear prophetic reference to the coming Messiah, and 1 Corinthians 10 expounds upon it.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 (NKJV)
(1) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
(2) all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
(3) all ate the same spiritual food,
(4) and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
(5) But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Jesus was not following along behind the Israelites in the wilderness, but he would follow them in time, and it was to the coming Messiah whom they were to look for their salvation. Once again we see that all the Israelites were given equal opportunity to walk in newness of life, but most did not do so, allowing themselves to be misled by their leaders and thus turned away by spiritual deception. Today, each member of the Body of Christ is fully equipped to become like him and shine his light to the world, and to do so we must stand upon the truth of God’s wonderful Word and act accordingly.
1 Corinthians 3:10 and 11
(10) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
(11) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Life’s principles declare the truth of God’s Word. Speaking of an architectural foundation, The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “The foundation of a structure generally seems to transfer the loads from the structure to the underlying materials (such as soil or rock) which are known as the foundation material.” And the Construction Handbook for Civil Engineers says: “A properly designed foundation conveys all loads to the earth in such a manner as to prevent unacceptable settling or breakup of the supported structure. This is accomplished by spreading the load over a sufficient area.”
Jesus Christ is a sufficient foundation for the Church because by his life he conquered all the sins of mankind and by his death he paid the price for sin itself. As the Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), he transfers our loads of human weakness to God, His Father (and ours), who is the very bedrock of his own life.
In case you want to study this more thoroughly, consider the following: when it comes to how all mankind relates to Jesus Christ, each person will either stand upon the Rock as their sure foundation (Isa. 28:14–16; Matt. 7:24–29 and 16:13–18), stumble over the Rock (Rom. 9:30–33), or be crushed by the Rock (Luke 20:9–18).
Speaking of Israel at the future Resurrection of the Just, God says in Ezekiel 36:26b that He will “…remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” As Christians, our formerly stony hearts have been flooded with God’s tenderizing holy spirit. Though we are still “earthen vessels,” we have the ability to faithfully manifest the heart of Christ to the world. In reality, God has done for us something similar to what John the Baptist proclaimed to the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees who were flaunting their Jewish heritage: He has given us life as “children of Abraham,” figuratively speaking.
And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
Jesus said something similar at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the Jewish people were praising God and blessing Jesus as their long awaited king:
(38) “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
(39) Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
(40) “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
We who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are firmly standing upon The Rock. Those who refuse to believe in him stumble over The Rock. Those who pledge their allegiance to the Devil will be crushed under The Rock. As you stand upon The Rock, both he and our Father will back you up with their power. The stones Joshua set up because they had heard the words of the LORD could not speak. Though called to be a nation to minister to the world, Israel did not speak. Now we, whose stony hearts have been flooded with life, are the ones called to go forth and speak the truth in love.
2 Corinthians 3:2 and 3
(2) You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.
(3) You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit [spirit] of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
1 Peter 1:18–2:3 is a stirring section of Scripture regarding one’s New Birth and subsequent growth by way of wholeheartedly desiring the sustenance of the Word of God and a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Then come the following verses, wherein the Jewish language communicated very well to Peter’s audience:
1 Peter 2:4, 5 and 9
(4) As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—
(5) you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
It is we, the Church, who are to declare the praises of our Father and our Lord. And the greatest truth we can declare is the Sacred Secret, which is that today it is available for anyone to be born again of incorruptible seed and thus be a member of the Body of Christ, fully equipped to manifest his life to the world, and guaranteed everlasting life. As Christians, we are “living stones” built into a dwelling place for our God. He has placed His very nature within us so that we can walk in fellowship with Him and light up the world with His love and truth.
(19) Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
(20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
(21) In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
(22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit [spirit].
The Sacred Secret was the first truth lost shortly after the death of the Apostle Paul in about 70 A.D., and since then much of “the wall of truth” found in the Church Epistles has been torn down and replaced by the religious traditions of men. God is counting on each of us, like “rocks” who have heard the words of the Lord about the Sacred Secret, to stand faithfully in this hard place, speaking forth the truth that so many billions have never heard. So, fellow members of the Body of Christ, let us each cleave unto our Lord Jesus, put on the mind of Christ, and faithfully stand together upon The Rock of Ages. Let’s rock!