The Church’s One Foundation

Baptist_Temple_cornerstone“The Church’s One Foundation” is an old hymn of the Christian faith penned by Samuel John Stone.

Written specifically to counter a false teaching that was creating schisms in the church in South Africa, this and a series of eleven others were designed to reinforce the Apostle’s Creed. The opening lines of this hymn are as follows

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord

It is this foundation I want to focus on in light of my recent posts about the Church. As it turns out, I wrote a post entitled “Jesus Christ Is Lord” some years ago, and I don’t think I have much to add. So without further preamble, here is a reposting of that article.

The Bible reveals Jesus as many things—the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, but it seems that the one thing God will make clear to all people at some point is that He is Lord.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)

When I think of “Lord” I think of authority. Interestingly, it was Jesus’s authority that caught people’s attention early on. The gospels record that people questioned the authority with which He taught, they wondered about (and some doubted) His authority over unclean spirits. And His disciples were especially amazed at His authority over elements in nature.

I’m also curious about the way that Satan interacted with Jesus in the three temptations recorded in the book of Matthew. One was a concession that Jesus was master over physical elements, acknowledging that He could turn stones into bread if He wanted. Another was a concession that He, or at least His Father, was master over the angelic host.

The third is the one that seems different. In the temptation involving who would rule the kingdoms of the world, Satan seems to be saying, in his offer to trade, that he had the power but God had the authority.

Jesus being God would then have that same authority.

Sadly, people in today’s western culture seem eager to bring Jesus down. For some time, other religions have acknowledged Jesus as a prophet, and it seems that view of Him is flooding into our Christianized societies. Hence, to many He is little more than a guru.

Even professing Christians belittle Him by limiting His work on earth to a “this is how it’s done” example for us to emulate. Given that Jesus lived a sinless life, we can undoubtedly learn by studying what He did and said. But Jesus as example should not supplant Jesus as Lord.

What Jesus said wasn’t just good thinking, wise advice, logical, helpful, and moral. It was right. It was true.

He spoke as the one person who knew the Father and who could reveal Him. He spoke from a position of omniscience, without any misconceptions or delusions. No one else could speak this way. Only Jesus. Only the One who is over all.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority (Col 2:9-10, emphasis added)

I find it especially interesting that Jesus’s half brother James started his letter “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ …” Here’s a man who could have claimed a special relationship with Jesus on a human level but chose instead to identify himself as a servant for life to the Lord. Essentially he took his right to say what he was about to say from his relationship with Jesus as Lord.

When I think about the fact that those words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, I get a picture of how God wants us to view Jesus.

A Christian Is . . .

People001Some people are understandably confused about what defines a Christian. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, there are more and more people claiming to be Christians while holding views that have little to do with what Christ actually said and did. There have been various visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction who claim to be Christians but who say all manner of things inconsistent with what Jesus said.

What I’ve recently learned, however, is that this situation is not unique to Christians. I had occasion to ask someone in a different faith community if they ever encountered atheists, and the response was, yes, within our faith community.

Say what?

The individual went on to explain that there are people in the community purely because of the culture, the tradition, but there is no actual faith.

That answer sounded all too familiar. Any number of people in the US identify as “Christian” and yet they believe very little when it comes to the essentials of Christianity. Others treat Christianity as pot luck–pick what you like best, and leave the rest.

What are the essentials that actually define a Christian, and how can they be determined since so many people who believe widely diverse ideas put themselves in the category of Christ follower?

The easiest answer is to look at the historical creeds, or sets of beliefs, ascribed to by the church from early on. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote the most basic list of things he called “of first importance”:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4).

From this, it’s clear the Scriptures are the touchstone of truth, Christ died for our sins, and He was buried and raised the third day, which means He is alive.

Two specific extra-biblical creeds come to mind that add to this list of basics—the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. The former came out of a council held at Nicaena by Christian leaders in 325. The latter also dates from the fourth century and is traditionally associated with the twelve apostles. These two statements enumerate the core beliefs of anyone who is a Christian.

Other documents have come to the forefront adding to these basics, especially after the Protestant Reformation. Some of these, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Baptist Confession of Faith, written in the seventeenth century by Puritan leaders, include things not widely believed today. Yet key points covered in these confessions represent essentials for Protestants—specifically sola scriptura and sola fide.

Bibles002The first of these, Scripture alone, communicates the idea that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. The second, by faith alone, declares God’s work of justification, which pays for sin, to be a free gift, in no way earned by works but simply believed by faith.

Christians disagree on a lot of things, and some of those seem important to us, but they don’t change the fact that we are saved by God’s grace, not by our own works. That’s still at the core of the Christian faith. We know this, as Paul said, by what has been written for our benefit. For Paul that meant the Prophets recorded in what we now refer to as the Old Testament. But as early as the first century, Peter equated Paul’s words with Scripture:

just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 – emphasis mine)

From that verse, and from what Jude said and various passages Paul wrote, it’s clear that false teaching grew up right along side the truth. From the beginning of Christianity, then, there’s been a need to discern what is truth and what is error.

Lots of people have claimed to have a newer version of the truth or a sure word from God. However there are a couple things that make it easy to identify those as false: first, they contradict something in the Scriptures Paul and Peter referred to. Second, they elevate something or someone to a position above God’s Word.

For example, the Mormons claim Joseph Smith received a later revelation from God. Never mind all the problems associated with his claims, we know the work is false because it elevates itself above Scripture and in places its content contradicts Scripture.

No surprise, then, that the Bible itself has been under heavy attack for the last century or so. No wonder there’s growing confusion about who a Christian actually is.

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