Dr. Dan Hayden •
Maneuvering around a mound of dirt, I picked my way cautiously down the rough edges of the excavated area. The mammoth plywood form situated carefully over my shoulder was both heavy and awkward as I fought to keep my balance step after step down the treacherous decline. Finally, I lowered the structured form into place beside the other forms along the concrete footing. Rods were inserted and clamps were applied as the wall took shape. We were laying a foundation for a house that was being built in suburban Chicago, and I was working for a concrete construction company on the wall crew. That experience of preparing foundations gave me insight into the importance of laying adequate foundations for structured buildings. When you get right down to it, a building is only as sturdy as the strength of its foundation.
The apostle Paul used this analogy in a figurative sense when speaking of the spiritual construction of the church. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, he says:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Now, Paul was concerned that the Corinthian church should be consciously aware of their foundational roots. It seems that certain individuals were introducing humanistic thinking saturated with fleshly motives as the basis upon which to build their ministry. This was totally inconsistent, however, with the way Paul had begun the work at Corinth. What these meddlers were doing was simply leading the church astray from its purpose of glorifying Christ. Paul wanted them to refocus on the foundation that had been laid for the church, and then to build a ministry that was consistent with that foundation.
The word foundation in 1 Corinthians 3 is the Greek word themelios, which refers to a substructure—something put down as an undergirding for what would be built. Themelios actually comes from a root word that means to put or place something down, to establish something and fix it firmly. So Paul was saying that there was a spiritual substructure to the church that had been laid, upon which everything else was to be built. And that undergirding foundation was Jesus Christ.
The point here is that a foundation should determine the type of building to be erected. If Jesus Christ is the foundation, then everything should focus on Him and His Word. To build with mere human ideas and secular thinking was to ignore the foundation. Prideful leaders seeking to impose their own agenda upon the ministry of the church were to be shunned as diversionary and counterproductive. Only that which glorifies Christ and is in accordance with His Word was to be accepted and honored.
There is a lesson here for us. We in the contemporary church are still building upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets of the first century church (Ephesians 2:20). Consequently, our methodologies, programming and procedures need to be continually reevaluated as to whether they are consistent with that foundation. Does what we do truly bring glory to Christ, or does it simply cater to popular interest and fleshly indulgence? Christ is the issue—not merely pleasing ourselves.
Paul said that there is only one foundation for the Church, and that is Jesus Christ. When the Word of Christ is faithfully taught with a central focus on glorifying Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then the Church will be strong and vibrant. How we build must be consistent with the foundation that was laid. Jesus is that foundation! ■