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“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Mat 7:26-27)
Nothing is more important in the construction of a house than its foundation. All other things can be built well. But, if the foundation is faulty, the house will not stand. The same is true for a church. We, as a body of Christ, must have the proper foundation. I fear we live in a time when many are at least giving the impression that they have the wrong foundation.
Let me preface the main thought of this article by saying it is possible to have that which is good in itself misused as a foundation. For instance, solid trusses are important in the construction of a home. The roof will not hold up if the trusses are not solid. However, they cannot be used as a foundation for the home. They are in and of themselves good and useful. But, they are not beneficial when used in any other way than their proper purpose. The same is true with Biblical doctrine. For example, it is important to use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. However, this is not the foundational principle of the Lord’s church.
The Bible seems plain enough regarding what the only foundation for the Lord’s church is. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). The Apostle Paul was inspired to tell the saints at Corinth the importance of having the proper foundation. Just a few verses earlier, he wrote, “…you are God's field, you are God's building.” (I Cor. 3:9). He is stressing the importance of building up our faith. Nonetheless, we cannot build up on the wrong foundation and expect to be faithful or fruitful.
Jesus Christ is the sole foundation of His church. We need to make sure that our primary message is “Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). It seems that oftentimes our people are “gung ho” to make sure that folks know we believe in predestination. But, how often do we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We are so quick to tell people that our church believes in the doctrine of election. But, do we ever explain that we preach that salvation is through Christ alone? The main thrust of many is that God doesn’t love everybody. But, how many times do we share that Jesus is the friend of sinners? I oftentimes wonder if we have lost the proper foundation.
When Paul first came to the people of Corinth on his missionary journey, what message did he bring to them? He said, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:1, 2). Paul’s number one objective in missionary work was to share the Gospel of Christ. He reiterates this later in this same epistle. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:1-4). The first message that Paul preached when he met a new person was the Gospel. Surely, this is a great example for us.
I’ll be the first to say that pastors need to be preaching the whole counsel of God. It’s important that a pastor feeds his flock by speaking on a variety of subjects. He needs to supply a healthy diet to the souls that he’s been called to oversee. However, the foundation for all good preaching is the Gospel of Christ. Paul said, “…woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16). If we are going to leave a doctrine out, it cannot be the Gospel. If we are going to go to seed on anything, it must ever be Christ. The message of the cross must always be the center of all we say and do.
The church in Ephesus had a lot going for her. She had worked. She had labored. She had tried those that claimed to be apostles and had determined that they were impostors. It sounds like she had everything going in the right direction until the Lord says these dreadful words, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4,5). This church was a working church. They had not fainted out of weariness. But, they had forgotten Christ!! How in the world does this happen in one of the Lord’s churches? Yet, it happened a few decades after the Lord Himself established the first church at Jerusalem. Is there any doubt, there are churches that have replaced the preaching of the Gospel with something else today?
Every doctrine is founded on Christ. All things were made “through Him” (Jhn 1:2). We were chosen “in Him” (Eph. 1:4). We were redeemed by Him (Col 1:14). We were effectually drawn to Him (John 6:37). We are preserved in Him (Jud. 1:1). We are looking for His return (Tit. 2:13). The list goes on and on. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is about Him. The subject of the Holy Scriptures is Jesus Christ. May we ever look for that message in all that we say and do.
It seems to be more and more common that our preachers speak on nothing more than TULIP. Oh, many may start at a different text each week. However, the end result is the same. Is it really a surprise that many of our churches are losing any understanding of church truth and other vital doctrines? But even more importantly, are we leaving the message of Christ out? Are we falling into the same trap as the church in Ephesus?
Have we forgotten the Great Commission? Jesus said, “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mrk. 16:15). The order of the Commission is plain. We are to preach the Gospel, baptize the converts and then teach them proper doctrine (Mat. 28:18-20). When we rearrange this order, we do not follow God’s instruction. When we change God’s ordained way, we get off track. We cannot improve on God’s design of missionary work.
Let’s look at two examples of New Testament missionaries. When the Lord instructed Philip to go into Gaza, what message did he take? When he found the Eunuch reading the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah, what did he say? When asked by the Eunuch, “…of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34), how does Philip respond? God’s Word tells us, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Surely Philip understood many of the truths of God’s Word that we all cherish. Yet, he also understood the need of preaching the Gospel to the lost. When Paul and Silas were asked by the Philippian jailor, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), how did they respond? Did they begin an hour and a half treatise on the doctrines of grace? Did they explain to the man how he couldn’t be saved? Did they, as some have supposed to have said, tell them man, “Nothing at all!”? They certainly did not. In harmony with other examples in God’s Word, “…they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (Acts 16:31). These men understood that our foundational message must ever be the message of Christ crucified.
Is our confidence in election or in Christ? Now, let me make this plain, I believe the doctrine of election as much as anybody. I treasure it. I preach it! But, my confidence is in Christ. Paul said, “…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (I Tim. 1:12). Paul’s confidence was in Christ alone. Our faith is only as good as its object. The only Biblical object of faith is Jesus Christ. We are never bidden to trust in election to be saved. Our trust must ever be in the Christ of the Gospel (Eph. 1:12-13).
If you are asked what you believe, what is your first answer? If you are asked what your church stands for, what is your first answer? In years past, I would have quickly spouted off, “why, we believe in the doctrine of election.” And, that is true. We do believe and preach the doctrines of grace. We love the doctrines of grace. However, this is not the foundational principle of the Lord’s church. These blessed truths magnify that One that is surely the foundation. Perhaps our response to that question should be, “We believe that the only way into fellowship with God is through the finished work of Jesus Christ and that alone.”
Is it possible to have a true message and emphasize it so much that it replaces the Gospel as the proper foundation? I fear it is not only possible, but also probable. If this is correct, what is the problem with that? Perhaps our greatest fear should be that many are trusting in election for salvation but are not trusting in Christ. If this is so, are these saved? Perhaps this question is harsh. But, it’s important. Again, our faith is only as good as its object. Election is not to be the object of our faith. If we are pointing people to election for salvation, we are pointing them to the wrong place. You will search far and wide to find a Biblical missionary that pointed the lost to election.
A church that has replaced the preaching of the Gospel with election will produce several problems. As we have said, the greatest of these may be members that have been deceived into thinking election is the proper object of faith. But, the problems don’t stop there. In churches where TULIP is the only message ever preached, the members have no knowledge of other important subjects such as church truth, discipline, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, practical Christianity and many others. The list is endless. Also, Spirit convicted seekers are confused. They know they trust Christ but live in fear that they were not chosen. To these, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). There are no strings attached here. If a person is burdened over their sins by the convicting power of the Spirit, they are bidden to come to Christ. Again, He is the only proper Biblical foundation.
Let us ever examine ourselves. Let us ever examine our churches. Let us make sure that we have not laid any foundation other than Jesus Christ. All Biblical truths have their place. But, all are founded on the doctrine of Christ. He alone is “altogether lovely” (SOS 5:16).
“…to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:21).