Stone of Stumbling

For you who believe therefore is the honor, but for those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone,” and, “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” For they stumble at the word, being disobedient, to which also they were appointed. 1st Peter 2:7-8

The Greek word for ‘stone’ in 1Pe 2:7-8 is leethos (λίθος – G3037). It differs from the word ‘rock’ in verse 8, which is a translation of the Greek word petra (πέτρα – G4073). In the Septuagint, leethos is often used to translate the Hebrew word eben (אבן – H68), meaning ‘a stone’:

Psa 118:[22] The stone {eben} which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.

Isa 8:[14] And He shall be for a sanctuary, and for a stone {eben} of stumbling, and for a rock {tsoor – H6696} of falling to the two houses of Israel; for a trap and for a snare to the dweller of Jerusalem. [15] And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

In 1Pe 2:5-6, Peter refers to the people of God as living stones, and to Jesus himself as the chief Cornerstone. But in verses 7 and 8, he refers to Jesus as “a stone of stumbling”, and “a rock of offense”. Why the difference?

The preaching of the Gospel is received by some as glad tidings. But to many others, it is obnoxious and offensive. As Peter says, “they stumble at the word”:

Joh 9:[39] Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”

Act 13:[45] But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. [46] Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

2Co 2:[16] to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

When someone is judged “unworthy of eternal life”, the only alternative is eternal death:

All for whom Jesus Christ did not die will live eternally in the pit of Hell and will be eternally tormented for their sins. Souls who are tormented in the next life will never suffer enough to even begin to pay for as much as one sin. Scripture rejects the lie that souls in Hell cease to exist or cease to be tormented, as this is a denial that offending the infinitely holy God is an infinite crime deserving of an infinite punishment. Scripture also rejects the lie of Purgatory as well as the lie that those who perish denying the doctrines of the gospel will finally accept them in heaven. [Deu 32:22,41; Psa 9:17; Pro 27:20; Isa 33:14; Dan 12:2; Mat 3:12; Mat 5:22; Mat 7:21-23; Mat 10:28; Mat 11:22-24; Mat 13:41-42; Mat 25:30,46; Mar 9:42-48; Luk 16:23-24,26; Joh 3:36; Joh 10:11,26; Joh 12:48; Rom 2:5-9; Rom 6:23; Gal 3:10; 2Th 1:5-9; Heb 10:26-27; 2Pe 3:7; Jud 1:6-7; Rev 14:9-11; Rev 19:2-3; Rev 20:14-15]

Christian Confession of Faith, VII.B

Here are some of the verses that the Confession refers to in supposrt of the biblical doctrine of Hell:

Deu 32:[22] For a fire is kindled in my anger, that burns to the lowest Sheol, devours the earth with its increase, and sets the foundations of the mountains on fire. … [41] if I sharpen my glittering sword, my hand grasps it in judgment; I will take vengeance on my adversaries, and will repay those who hate me.

Psa 9:[17] The wicked shall be turned back to Sheol, even all the nations that forget God.

Mat 3:[12] His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”

Mat 13:[41] The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity, [42] and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

Mar 9:[42] Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck. [43] If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having your two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire, [44] ‘where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Joh 3:[36] One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won’t see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Heb 10:[26] For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, [27] but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.

Rev 21:[14] Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [15] If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

The terrible reality of Hell is a necessary consequence of sin. Sin is an offense against an infinitely good and perfect God; therefore, violating his commands deserves an infinitely terrible punishment. Those who wish to lessen the severity of Hell, and claim that souls in Hell will eventually cease to exist, are really lessening the glory of God. Thus, the magnitude of the torment of eternal Hell shows us something of the infinite glory of God.

It also displays for us the true extent of the agonies and suffering of Jesus Christ, in that he suffered and died for the sins of his people:

The consummate act of obedience that Jesus Christ paid to the law was in suffering the ultimate penalty for the disobedience of His people that the law demanded. Thus, while upon the cross, Jesus Christ, as a perfect representative, substitute, and sacrifice for His people, became a curse for His people and suffered the unmitigated fury of God the Father, which was equivalent to suffering the very pains of hell. This was not for any guilt He had contracted Himself but for the sins of His people. Their guilt was imputed to Him, and He suffered the penalty their sins deserved. His finished work on the cross appeased God’s wrath in full toward all for whom He died and paid the ransom price in full for all for whom He died, guaranteeing the salvation of all for whom He died. [Gen 22:13; Exo 12:3-13; Lev 16:21-22; Lev 17:11; Psa 22:1-18; Psa 32:1; Isa 53:1-12; Dan 9:24-26; Zec 13:7; Mat 26:28; Mat 27:35-50; Mar 15:24-37; Luk 23:33-46; Luk 24:46; Joh 11:49-52; Joh 19:16-30; Act 17:3; Act 20:28; Rom 3:24-25; Rom 5:6-11; 1Co 1:30; 1Co 5:7; 1Co 6:20; 1Co 15:3; 2Co 5:21; Gal 1:4; Gal 2:20; Gal 3:13; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:7; Eph 2:13-17; Col 1:14,20-22; Col 2:13-14; 1Th 5:10; 1Ti 2:6; Tit 2:14; Heb 2:9-10,17; Heb 9:12-14,26-28; Heb 10:10-18; Heb 13:12; 1Pe 1:18-19; 1Pe 2:24; 1Pe 3:18; 1Jo 1:7; 1Jo 2:2; 1Jo 3:5; 1Jo 4:10; Rev 1:5; Rev 5:9]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.C.2

Here are some of the verses the Confession refers to, that demonstrate the extent of the suffering of Christ, on behalf of his people:

Zec 13:[7] “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, and against the man who is close to me,” says Yahweh of Armies. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Gal 3:[13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,”

Heb 2:[9] But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone. [10] For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Heb 13:[12] Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate.

1Pe 3:[18] Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

Rev 5:[9] They sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: for you were killed, and bought us for God with your blood, out of every tribe, language, people, and nation,

Those who believe the Gospel will spend eternity praising their Lord for his redeeming work on their behalf. And a sober contemplation of the awful terrors of Hell will reveal the true nature and extent of that suffering.

But there is more. 1st Peter 2:8 not only says that the wicked stumble at Christ, and are disobedient, but that they were appointed to this state:

In eternity past, God (in order to more fully reveal to the elect His saving love towards them) purposed to create a people for displaying His power, wrath, and hatred of sin and unbelief. [Exo 9:14-16; Psa 73:17-18; Pro 16:4; Jer 6:28-30; Hab 1:6-11; Rom 9:17,21-23; 1Pe 2:8]

Christian Confession of Faith, II.D.2.a

Here are some of the verses the Confession refers to in support of the doctrine of Reprobation:

Psa 73:[17] Until I entered God’s sanctuary, and considered their latter end. [18] Surely you set them in slippery places.

Pro 16:[4] Yahweh has made everything for its own end— yes, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Rom 9:[17] For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” … [21] Or hasn’t the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor? [22] What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, [23] and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory,

What these verses show is that God created a people for the purpose of eternally executing his wrath and justice on them. This is to display to the Elect the greatness of his mercy and forgiveness toward them. Reprobation serves to magnify the greatness of the doctrine of Election.

And it isn’t even true, as some devious theologians like to pretend, that God softens the hearts of his people while the Reprobate harden themselves:

God actively causes the reprobate to hate His glory, persecute His people, and oppose His gospel, that He may justly punish them. [Exo 7:3; 9:12; Jos 11:20; 1Sa 2:25; Psa 105:25; Rom 9:18; Rev 17:17]

Christian Confession of Faith, II.D.2.d

Here are some of the verses that prove that the hearts of the Reprobate are actively hardened by God:

Exo 9:[12] Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken to Moses.

Jos 11:[20] For it was of Yahweh to harden their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that he might utterly destroy them, that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as Yahweh commanded Moses.

Psa 105: [25] He turned their heart to hate his people, to conspire against his servants.

Rom 9:[18] So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.

So does this mean that God has no love for the Reprobate?

God does not have any love toward the reprobate or any desire to save them, for God does not show love at the expense of His justice. The good things that God gives to them in this life lead only to their destruction, increasing their guilt for their thanklessness to God. Jesus Christ did not die for the reprobate in any sense, and they do not benefit in any sense from His death. Scripture, in speaking of God’s love for “all men” and “the world” is not speaking of all men without exception. Rather, these words refer to God’s love for all men without distinction – that is, regardless of their nationality or status. [Psa 2:4-5; Psa 5:5-6; Psa 11:5; Psa 73:11-12; Psa 92:7; Pro 3:32-33; Pro 11:20; Pro 12:2; Pro 16:4-5; Pro 17:15; Joh 3:16; Joh 15:22; Joh 17:9; Rom 9:13; 1Ti 2:4; 1Pe 2:8; 1Jo 2:2; 1Jo 4:10]

Christian Confession of Faith, II.D.2.e

Here are some of the verses that the Confession appeals to here:

Psa 5:[5] The arrogant shall not stand in your sight. You hate all workers of iniquity.

Pro 17:[15] He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to Yahweh.

Joh 15:[22] If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Rom 9:[13] Even as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The fact that God is love (1Jo 4:8,16) does not contradict this doctrine, because even a loving God does not have to display his love toward any of his creatures. Nor does reprobation violate the justice of God. God is just no matter what he does (Isa 45:21, Rom 3:26), and the Creator has every right to deal with his creatures as he alone sees fit.

Finally, does this doctrine make believers proud of their elect status?

Contrary to the aspersions of the enemies of God, this doctrine of reprobation does not make believers exalt themselves over other men; instead, it humbles them and causes them to tremble before Almighty God, thankful that He has graciously numbered them among the elect rather than the reprobate. [Rom 9:15-16,23,29; 1Co 4:7; 2Th 2:11-13]

Christian Confession of Faith, II.D.2.g

No, it has the opposite effect:

Rom 9:[15] For he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. … [23] and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory,

2Th 2:[11] Because of this, God sends them a working of error, that they should believe a lie; [12] that they all might be judged who didn’t believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. [13] But we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth;

The twin doctrines of Active Reprobation and Eternal Hell fill believers with the most profound thankfulness and gratitude toward God for the great mercy, grace, and forgiveness he has shown to them. And they display for us the magnitude of the sufferings Jesus Christ endured on behalf of the elect. Thus, these doctrines serve to magnify the greatness of God’s love for them. Hallelujah!

22 That stone is made head corner-stone,
which builders did despise:
23 This is the doing of the Lord,
and wondrous in our eyes.
(Psalm 118, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

The Doctrine of Reprobation

Lamb of God

The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility