I Corinthians 3:10-11
10 According to the grace of God, which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
No Christian would deny that Christ is the Foundation of the Church. After all, Paul said it was so. But what does that actually mean? How is the Foundation of Christ laid in the life of a disciple? What is different about a group of Christians who have been truly built upon the Foundation of Christ?
Peter said that the Church is “being built up as a spiritual house”. We know that in a building, every aspect of that building utterly depends upon its foundation. But what exactly did Paul mean when he said he “laid a foundation”? Also, what did Paul mean when he said he laid a foundation which already is laid?
The apostle Peter told us that in Zion, God Himself laid as a foundation “a Choice Stone”, “a Precious Cornerstone”. God may have done this 725 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, for that is when Isaiah prophesied it. But if we equate the Church to the people of God who were “chosen” in Christ and “adopted” through Christ, then it would be accurate to say that the Foundation of Christ was laid “before the foundation of the world”. This is the view of the Church we see in the writings of the apostles Peter, and Paul, and John.
But what does it mean that God laid Jesus Christ as the Foundation? And how did Paul lay a Foundation that had already been laid? What do these statements mean? To find the answers, let’s go back to the One from Whom the apostles got their ideas about the Church. Let’s go back to the One Who was the First Christian, Jesus Christ, “the Author and Finisher of our faith”, the One Who invented the whole idea of Church. Let’s go back to that very first mention of the word “church” in the New Testament:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Jesus asked His disciples about the general consensus of the surrounding society and culture – who did people think He was? But His Church is not marketed and built on cultural trends. The people’s perspective seemed sensible – Jesus was “one of the prophets”. But we will see that being part of His Church requires a REVELATION of a “Particular Prophet” – the prophet Who is also Priest and King – the Prophet Who is “the Son of the Living God” – the One Whom Moses and all the prophets prophesied would come.
Jesus said, “But who do YOU say that I am”? To be part of His Church, Jesus insists on a personal REVELATION OF HIMSELF, which is given to each individual disciple by the heavenly Father. He said, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father”. In other words, people may come to the church building, but people don’t “come to Jesus” unless the Father REVEALS Christ to them. In this passage, Jesus informs us that REVELATION is the foundational rock – the bedrock – upon which He builds His Church. It is a foundation which is laid, and then built upon. JESUS BUILDS HIS CHURCH BY REVELATION OF HIMSELF.
From this passage in Matthew, we can see where Peter got the analogy he used to define the Church as those who have a revelation of “The Living Stone”, “The Precious Cornerstone”, and are coming to Him and being built up “living stones” in a spiritual house.
So, we understand that the “rock” upon which Jesus is building His Church is the REVELATION of Who He is – “The Christ, the Son of the Living God”. The way Jesus builds His Church is by REVELATION OF HIMSELF. Jesus said that the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is always to “testify of Me”. An angel told John that “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus”. This is the way the Church that Jesus is building is built – through REVELATION. Now Christianity has produced a proliferation of methods and means with regards to church planting, church growth, and church ministry. But THIS is how Jesus builds His Church – BY REVELATION OF HIMSELF. And I believe the scriptures indicate that this is how the apostolic workers of the first century (and throughout church history) co-labored with Him –by preaching Christ. REVELATION of Christ is absolutely key for there to be Church.
So, we understand that the “rock” is REVELATION. But is the “rock” the foundation? Not exactly. This “rock” – petras – is defined as “a mass of rock, a bedrock”. It is not the foundation itself, but something the foundation is laid upon. So, the bedrock is REVELATION of Christ, and the Foundation is laid upon REVELATION. But what is that FOUNDATION? Let’s look at more of what Jesus has to say about it:
46 Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul said that “fire” would test and reveal what sort of work each man has done in the Lord. And here in this parable, the Lord is saying that a “flood” would serve the same purpose, that is, to test and reveal if a spiritual house has been “well built”.
Regarding this, in verse 48, Jesus says: the man “laid a foundation on the rock”. The “rock” is REVELATION of Christ; and the foundation is laid on the “bedrock”, that is, the foundation is laid on the REVELATION of Christ. So, what is the foundation that is laid?
In verse 46, we see the words, “Lord, Lord”. The subject matter is lordship. Because of the REVELATION he received from the Father, in his very first recorded sermon, Peter preached Jesus as “both Lord and Christ”. That is what Jesus is referring to here – relating to Him according to that REVELATION. If He has been REVEALED to us as Lord, then we should RELATE to Him as Lord. Otherwise, it is hypocrisy.
Verse 47 gives us further indication: The idea of “coming” to Jesus and “hearing” Jesus are also RELATING type activities. And, of course, that “hearing” means following through in action – obeying what we hear. So, we can conclude that the foundation is RELATIONSHIP with Jesus as Lord and Christ.
THAT is the Foundation: RELATIONSHIP with Christ! The Foundation of our Christian life and the Foundation of the Church is RELATIONSHIP with Christ.
This RELATIONSHIP starts with REVELATION – we cannot relate to that which we do not know. And this RELATIONSHIP continues in REVELATION – as our REVELATION of Christ grows, our RELATIONSHIP with Christ grows.
Everything in our Christian life, and everything in the life of the Church utterly leans on and depends upon our RELATIONSHIP with Christ. As the apostle Paul put it: “… serving God through his Spirit, boasting in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in human nature.” THAT is authentic, biblical Christianity.
Now this foundation is not a dependence upon our ability to get revelation, for that would be works instead of grace. Rather, it is a blood-bought RELATIONSHIP with Christ through faith. Yet, this RELATIONSHIP is determined by – that is, limited to or proportionate to – our REVELATION of Christ. We cannot relate to what we don’t know about Christ. The bedrock of REVELATION sets the parameters of the foundation of RELATIONSHIP.
* * * * * * *
“Revelation & Relationship” is an excerpt from the eBook “Christ Is Prerequisite for Church”, pages 13-20. See the corresponding eBook and Audio Message on our website.
At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications © 2015
“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13
* * * * * * *
 1 Peter 2:5
 1 Peter 2:6
 Isaiah 28:16
 1 Peter 1:20; Ephesians 1:4-5; Revelation 13:8. This concept is also put forth by Simon Chan in his, Simon (2006) The Ontology of the Church, Chapter One, Liturgical Theology, The Church as Worshiping Community. InterVarsity Press. (2006)
 Hebrews 12:2
 Deuteronomy 18:17-19; Acts 7:36-38
 John 6:44; Cf. John 6:44; Isaiah 54:13
 Greek: petra, Strong’s # 4073, as distinguished from Peter, petros (#4074), a piece of rock larger than lithos (#3037), a stone.
 1 Peter 2:4-6
 John 15:26; 14:26; 1 John 5:6
 Revelation 19:10
 Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Strong’s # 4073.
 I Corinthians 3:10-15
 Acts 2:36
 A literal translation of Philippians 3:3. Cf. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament & Vincent’s Word Studies.