Jesus the Foundation of and the Builder of the Church
Lest the reader be misled by the title reading into it what is not there the church that is being talked about in this article may not be the one you are a member of so proceed if at all with caution having been forewarned. You can judge for yourself after reading. I begin with Jesus as the foundation of the church.
After Jesus’ arrest he was brought before the Jewish council where he was asked, “‘Are you then the Son of God?’ And he said to them, ‘You rightly say that I am.'” (Luke 22:70 NKJV) This fact, earlier confessed by Peter in Matt. 16 when he said, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16 NKJV) is the rock Jesus built the church on (Matt. 16:18 NKJV) Catholic doctrine to the contrary notwithstanding. No one can enter the church built by Jesus who does not believe this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.
Jesus is described by Peter as a living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious (1 Peter 2:4). He goes on a couple of verses later to say, “it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame.'” (1 Peter 2:6 NKJV) The chief cornerstone (a rock) is obviously a reference to a man? I ask the reader to decide for himself whether this man Peter is describing (that if a man believes on him he will not be put to shame) is meant by Peter to be a reference to himself or to Jesus? The church cannot be built on both Jesus and Peter at the same time. Both cannot be that rock upon which the church is built. Who did Peter consider to be the chief cornerstone?
But let us compare 1 Peter 2:6 just quoted above with Isaiah 28:16 where God had said hundreds of years before Peter’s time, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” (NKJV) The stone God laid was Christ, not Peter. I am satisfied this Old Testament passage is the passage Peter had reference to in 1 Peter 2:6 when he said “it is also contained in the Scripture.” But what does it mean when the text says “whoever believes will not act hastily”? Have you ever stood on a chair or ladder, a rock or ledge that did not feel secure under your feet? We all have. What did you do when it felt shaky? You acted hastily to remove yourself lest you fall. The idea that both Isaiah and Peter present is that the rock God laid in Christ is so solid and so secure under the feet of the true believer that there is no insecurity. The rock you stand on when you stand on Christ is solid and secure, safe and reliable, and will not fail you.
Very early in the history of the church when Peter and John were taken into custody (a consequence of their teaching at the temple) and were placed before the Jewish rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as the high priest and as many as were of his family, Peter testified of Jesus saying, “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other.” (Acts 4:11-12 NKJV) In verse 10 Peter names Jesus as being the one of whom he speaks.
Paul said of Jesus, “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11 NKJV) The foundation of the faith, of the church, the spiritual body of Christ, is Jesus – Jesus not as a man per se but as the Son of God. In writing to the Ephesian brethren Paul says they were members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19) “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Eph. 2:20 NKJV) One has his choice – he can either believe the Catholic Church in what it teaches as Peter being the rock upon which the church is built or he can believe the Bible which makes it plain that Jesus is that rock. What is impossible is to make a claim to believe both since they directly contradict one another.
Yes, Peter is a stone in the church but so is every other Christian. Peter tells us so. “You also, (he says speaking to Christians – DS) as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV) The church is the spiritual body of Christ, a spiritual building being built up. The church is Christ’s body – “his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24 NKJV – see also Eph. 1:22-23 and Col. 1:18). “He is the Savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23 NKJV) This is the body which he sanctified and cleansed “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26 NKJV), a reference to baptism all denominations to the contrary notwithstanding, in order that “he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27 NKJV)
Paul calls the church “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9 NKJV) and says he laid the foundation to that building. He did so by preaching Christ and him crucified. “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22-23 NKJV) If a man is going to be laid as a living stone into this spiritual building called the church which Jesus has built and continues to build by adding new stones onto it then he must be laid on top of this foundational rock that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world as the lamb of God to give his life as a sacrifice for all of mankind’s sins in order to bring salvation to all who will but believe and obey the gospel message.
What kind of building is the church? Paul describes it as “the temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16 NKJV) and says that the Spirit of God dwells in it (1 Cor. 3:16) and says it is “holy” (1 Cor. 3:17 NKJV). In Ephesians he describes it thus, “the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:21-22 NKJV)
Paul makes a statement in connection with the church being God’s temple that ought to frighten all those who think they are free to tinker around with doctrine and practice in the church. He says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” (1 Cor. 3:17 NKJV) He says it is holy. One has to remember who built the church. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18 NKJV) He did this by his sacrifice on the cross making the church possible and then through the medium of the Holy Spirit in the Spirit’s teaching the word (the gospel) through the apostles and New Testament prophets. Later the work of building continued as it does today not by means of inspired men still living but of inspiration completed and placed in the book we call the New Testament. The Holy Spirit continues the work of preaching the gospel and building the church every time the word is read or accurately conveyed in teaching and preaching.
The church was built by men and women and boys and girls of accountable age (old enough to be responsible) hearing, believing, and obeying from the heart the gospel of Christ. Every time such an individual obeyed the gospel another living stone was added to the building of the church and such building continues today and will until the end of time. Shortly after Pentecost the Bible says, “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47 NKJV) Now note who was adding to the church? It was the Lord; the Lord built the church and continues to build it yet today in the manner just previously described.
But I want to go back to something mentioned earlier that needs more emphasis. I speak specifically of the great danger inherit in defiling the church, the temple of God, of which Paul says that the one who does so God will destroy (1 Cor. 3:17). God (Jesus) built the first century New Testament church. Do we think we can do better than he did? Men are trying continually to change the church from what it was in the first century and modernize it. Do you really think that is wise? How do you know as a mere man that the changes that seem good and right to you are fine with God? Jesus is a perfect builder. Can you do better than he did without defiling the church? Remember the penalty for being mistaken is not a slap on the wrist but destruction.
We might respond and say well I have read the New Testament and I know not all of the churches back then were what they ought to be. The church at Corinth had all kinds of problems and then we can read about the 7 churches of Asia (Rev. 2 and 3) of which most had one thing or another wrong with them, etc. Yes, that is right but we also see in our reading they were rebuked for their error as well and told what to do to get their house in order. In other words we were given a blueprint for what the church ought to be. Who among us really believes that any of those congregations could have continued in error forever without eternal consequences? The rebuking was for the purpose of bringing about repentance and thus salvation.
Here is our problem today. We are not going to get a letter to our church directly from the Lord or from an inspired apostle. When we start deviating from the blueprint (New Testament teaching) deceiving ourselves that all is well in doing it there is not going to be a rebuke directly from inspiration other than from the New Testament itself. If we are deviating from it (the teachings of the New Testament) we have already convinced ourselves it is okay and in one way or another have justified ourselves in doing so. This makes it nearly