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No Other Foundation 
By Dr. Todd B. Jones
02/20/11

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23


We have spent the last six weeks in the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul's letter written from Ephesus around 53 or 54 A.D. to a small, struggling group of believers in the "second city" of Greece, Corinth, where Paul had founded the work of the church in 50 A.D. The church is experiencing all kinds of trouble that Paul has heard about, which is why he writes his letter in the first place.

We should not be surprised that this church is experiencing trouble, its members having a hard time getting along with each other, divided over different preachers, allowing their social and educational differences to become sources of these divisions. The Church always seems to be in trouble, wherever you find it. You have probably heard the old story of the man who was shipwrecked and found his way to a deserted South Seas island. He somehow managed to survive, and lived alone on that uncharted island for almost ten years. Finally, a Navy cruiser came upon the island and rescued him. The officers from the Naval cruiser were deeply impressed with the life this man had built for himself. He had built what looked to them like a small town of buildings with thatched roofs to protect him from the weather. He built a small home, a separate kitchen, a dining hut, a bathhouse, and still there were more buildings. "What is that building?" asked the Captain. "Oh, that's my church," he said. "And how about that other one alongside it?" "That one? Oh, that's where I used to go to church!"

Wherever you find the church, and really get to know it, you discover the church in trouble, often in danger of allowing its differences to become divisions. Presbyterians in America in these last two centuries do not have such a great track record on this count! I call it "Presbyterian alphabet soup," because our divisions have led to the initials by which we are known. Monday night I was asked to pray for the opening of the Tennessee Senate. Two people asked in meeting us, "Are you PCA or PCUSA?" Add to that the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and you start to get the picture. (And this is simply the Presbyterian part of the Church!) We are a body often in trouble, rent apart by our deeply held convictions. Within our own denomination right now we are facing the possibility of still another major division over our differences. A group of large, evangelical congregations, or at least a group of their pastors, have sent a letter across the whole church expressing their frustration with what has been the drift of our mainline PCUSA denomination for far too long. I find myself very sympathetic to their concerns, and all of our Session will be watching closely how all of this plays out over the next few years.

But the large point here to make is that none of this is new. Wherever you find the Church, you find it threatened by conflict and division.

Paul knew this, and it pained him. Because when Paul looked at the Church, he saw all these conflicts and imperfections, but he saw something else as well. Paul could see beyond all the tensions and stresses, to the very foundation of the Church, which is Jesus Christ. In Corinth, Paul laid this foundation. Jesus Christ is the Church's only foundation, and for all its faults and foibles, this remains the glory of the Church. Dig down deep into any church, down through all the tensions and problems and personalities, and you will find, down deep, at the bottom of it all, Jesus Christ. This is the great hope of the Church. Billy Graham says, "I am not a great man. But I have a great message." That great message is Jesus Christ and His Gospel. This is the grace and glory of the Church, and for all its weaknesses and imperfections, it is what makes the Church so very important, so indispensable.

Paul says it: "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ." The Church is at its best when it rests and returns to its only foundation, which is Jesus Christ. I get so tired of the Church sometimes, and I can get so discouraged over the things that trouble us and take up our time and energy. But then on Sunday, when we are all gathered here, when we join our voices in praise or in prayer, when we hear the Word of God, when we take communion or baptize a baby or an adult, then I am reminded of who we really and truly are. This is not just another club or organization trying to promote itself. This is not a voluntary group of like-minded people. This is what Paul called "the body of Christ." Jesus said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This is the holy Church, whose foundation will ever and always be Jesus Christ, the great hope of the world.

Paul asks, "Do you not know that you are God's temple, and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" This was a bold statement by Paul, for when Paul wrote this letter, the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing. Indeed, it would not be destroyed for another sixteen years. The Temple for Paul, as a faithful Jew, was the central dwelling place for God in the world. For Paul here, the Church has replaced the Temple. When Paul says "you," he used the plural of the second person pronoun. Paul believed the Spirit of God was present in the community that worships Jesus Christ as Lord, in the Church. And Paul thought this community, this Church, was holy. Why? Not because of the members' own holiness. But only because of Jesus Christ, "the Church's one foundation." "For God's temple is holy," Paul writes, "and you are that temple."

In May of 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic for the first time. It took four years to build what was at the time the world's longest suspension bridge, the suspended span being 4,200 feet in length. (Eight bridges built since are now larger, but none are more famous.) It has stood there as a symbol of American ingenuity for almost seventy-five years. The key to its strength is the flexibility of the span. It has only been closed three times in its life due to high winds, but it has never been threatened or compromised. This strength in flexibility is due to the rock solid base of the two towers that stand on either end of the San Francisco Bay, each 746 feet high above the water, and each reaching deep into the earth's crust to rest upon bedrock. They each are held together by 600,000 bolts. The soundness of these two foundational towers is the reason why the suspension span can afford to be flexible. Their strength allows for the flexibility necessary to stay together no matter what forces may threaten.

So it is with the Church. The Church, wherever it is, and this church in particular, will always face challenges to its life. It will always have problems, and always be filled with tensions and stress. That is the humanity of the Church, and this is how God intended that it should be. But the real strength of the Church, and the most important part of any structure, is its foundation. If the foundation is sound and solid, then the building will be sound and solid. I have seen the foundation of this church family. I have been in a position to dig down deep into our life. And I know that it is sound, for our foundation is none other than Jesus Christ.

We are not, thank God, in charge of the Church. And Christ is not, thank God, dependent on us for the Church to survive. We are not, thank God, the key to the Church's future. That belongs to Jesus Christ, our Lord, and our foundation. So let's give thanks to Him, and let us keep Jesus as the only foundation we trust. For "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

AMEN.
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