When I was on holiday in Cyprus some years ago, nearby to the hotel where I was staying, workmen were in the process of making foundations for what I guessed would be a house. I was amazed how deep they had to dig to reach solid rock upon which it would be built. The soil was a rusty red colour, and it looked soft and unstable.
This scene brought to mind a passage in Luke’s gospel: ‘He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock (Luke 6:48).’ Here Jesus describes a wise man who does what He, the Lord says (v. 47). Such a man is truly kept by Him.
The Greek word used here for ‘foundation’’ means: “something that has been laid down and consolidated.” That’s an appropriate description – for a building must have a strong foundation if it is to ‘stand’ the test of time.
The house in which I live was built in 1964, and it was sited on clay. As you probably know, insurance companies bump up premiums on such properties. That’s because they are prone to subsidence caused by the expansion and contraction of the clay according to the amount of moisture in it. When there is heavy rain the clay expands, and when there is a drought it contracts.
Fortunately my house was built on a very substantial foundation in the form of a concrete platform; therefore it remains intact to this day.
Half a century has passed since it was built, and during that time architects and engineers have devised new and better systems for overcoming the problem of subsidence.
Here’s an example:
Nearby to my place there’s a new block of flats, and during its construction I took an interest in how it was built. I followed every move. Firstly they drilled vertical shafts into the clay, and within them they set up lattice steel frames. These were linked together with similar horizontal frames that were suspended in boxed trenches. Into them they pumped concrete, which when set formed a very strong structure. Above, and firmly attached to it they erected a steel framework for supporting the rest of the building.
This building has no actual, single foundation, but by its very nature it should remain intact, irrespective of the movement of the clay on which it was built.
So much for physical foundations!
How about spiritual ones?
Paul the Apostle described himself as a ‘wise master builder’ who was equipped by the grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) of God for the task of laying a ‘foundation’ upon which others may build. [He employs metaphors to illustrate the building process of the early *church.]
Here’s what he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11).’
The foundation he laid was ‘Jesus Christ.’ He preached Jesus Christ, and Him only (1 Corinthians 1:23; Colossians 3:11). He is the solid, immovable foundation who supports the house of God, i.e., His church. He is the foundation on which His church is built and He also holds it together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5).
In addition to being the ‘foundation’ He is also the ‘chief cornerstone’: ‘Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22).’
‘having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (v. 20)’ does not contradict: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11);’ for as Paul preached Christ, so also did the other apostles and prophets. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) they proclaimed and preached the word of God and established churches wherever they went (cf. Titus 1:5).
Paul writing to the Romans explained, ‘And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:20).’
When he and others planted churches they appointed leaders and teachers who were imitators of themselves, and most importantly they were imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1)! But at all times Jesus was their foundation and cornerstone. The same can be said of the true church today.
Do not be confused by the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18: ‘“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”’
Peter was not the ‘foundation’ of the church. He was a founding member (cf. Ephesians 2:20) who had a ‘rock’ solid faith After his denial of the Lord (John 18:15-27) Jesus reinstated him and commissioned him with the task of tending and feeding HIs lambs and sheep (John 21:15-17).
*Who are the Church?