Every building needs a foundation for stability and strength. A strong foundation is a necessity not just for concrete buildings but also for non-concrete structures like institutions or organizations. Like buildings and abstract structures, the church needs to be based on a strong foundation, a foundation that it has been given by God. In this article, I will discuss the one true foundation on which the church is built.
The True Foundation of the Church
For a long time in church history, it has been taught by the Roman Catholics that the church was built on Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). The Roman Catholic Church has taken granted that the church was built on the person of Peter.
However, such an interpretation does not fit with other passages of the Bible. Paul says in Ephesians that the saints (together forming the church) are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:19-21). If this verse is to be interpreted in the same way as the previous one, then all the apostle and prophets deserve to be part of the foundation of the church along with Peter. Instead, the Roman Catholic church holds to the view that Peter alone is the foundation of the church and the keys of the kingdom were given to him. This belief and claim are due to the misreading or misinterpreting the words of Jesus to Peter in the Gospels. This is why it is important not to take a verse out of its immediate context, book context and Bible context.
However, being on the other side of the Reformation period, we clearly affirm the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the true foundation of his church and not Peter. It is on the confession of Peter that Jesus said he would build his church. When Jesus asked the question “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13), Peter replied, “You are Christ the Son of the living God”. In reply to Peter’s confession that Jesus said that he will build his church on this rock-solid confession that Jesus is Christ! How can we be sure of it? The Scripture interprets the Scripture! Elsewhere in the Bible Paul said that, “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). Here there is no ambiguity in the statement. Paul was clear that Jesus Christ is the true foundation and nobody else can be. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelicals today, hold to this belief, that Jesus is the true foundation of his church.
The Only Foundation of the Church
One of the old English Hymns written by Samuel John Stone starts like this: “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord”. Jesus Christ is not only the true foundation but also the one and only foundation. There is no one equal to him who can claim to be a part of that foundation. No one is worthy even to imagine playing such a great part. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul mentions that he laid the foundation. Here he does not see himself to be the foundation but a worker who laid it. He also says that after he laid the foundation someone else is building on it. Then he clarifies there, saying that the foundation that he laid is Jesus Christ and no one else can lay any other foundation besides that which was laid. Paul says that all others who come after him, cannot lay the foundation again but can only build on that which was laid. It is through the apostles and the prophets that God laid the foundation for the church. In other words, we can say that the church is being built on the teachings of the apostles and the prophets, which is all about Christ, the Word Incarnate.
The Solid Foundation of the Church
Jesus is also seen as a cornerstone in the Bible. A cornerstone is normally a huge stone which acts as a foundation stone. It is similar to the concept of the foundation layer and is used to support the structure of a building or walls. It bears the weight of the building. All the walls of the building are not only aligned with it but depend on it for stability. Once the cornerstone is placed, then other bricks or stones follow to make the structure of the building to be firm and solid.
In Ephesians, Paul compares Jesus with the cornerstone. He says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:19-21). Commenting on the phrase “foundation of the apostles and prophets” John MacArthur says, “Because the Greek genitive case appears to be used in the subjective sense, signifying the originating agency, the meaning is not that the apostles and prophets were themselves the foundation—though in a certain sense they were—but that they laid the foundation.” This thought aligns with our previous point that Jesus alone is the foundation and no one else. We see here that Jesus is not only the one sure foundation, but a solid foundation being the cornerstone.
The knowledge that Jesus is the true, strong and only foundation gives us who believe and those who are yet to believe a great hope. It helps the church which is built by Christ and built on Christ to be safe and confident and to stand strong in this world for Christ.
Dear ones, are you a part of this church which is built on the foundation of Christ?
Charles P. Thaluri serves as the pastor at Symrna Bible Church. Hyderabad, Telangana.