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The Firm Foundation
"Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his: and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness" (2 Timothy 2:19).
What is the "firm foundation of God"? Paul tells us very plainly what it is, "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11.) The same inspired writer also says, "being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).
Which is it? Is Christ the only foundation, or are the apostles and prophets the foundation and Christ the comer stone?, Are the two verses at variance?
Perhaps the best way to solve the seeming disharmony is to raise still another question, In what sense are the apostles and prophets the foundation? Look again at the passage in its immediate context, "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief comer stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a, habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
It was the function of the Holy Spirit to reveal and confirm truth. "For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will" (Hebrews 2:3,4).
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all the truth: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but whatsoever things he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 16:13).
Jesus promised the apostles a speaking, teaching Spirit who would declare things to them. Revelation was made to the apostles, and other inspired teachers of the first century, through words. We sometime talk of how the apostles were under the direct influence of the Spirit. Well, they were, but only in the sense the Spirit spoke words to them. They were influenced, guided, directed, taught, edified and moved by words. The Spirit used the medium of words when he instructed even the apostles.
Think of an instance or two. The Spirit told Peter these exact words, "Behold, three men seek thee. But arise, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting: for I have sent them" (Acts 10: 19,20). Later the apostle said, "And the Spirit bade me go with them, making no distinction" (Acts II: 12).
When Paul was called into Macedonia to preach the gospel "a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There was a man of Macedonia standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9).
Therefore, in talking about how revelation came to him, Paul says, "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (I Corinthians 2:13).
Again, Paul told Timothy, "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Timothy 4: 1). Paul was told plainly by the Spirit the things he wrote to Timothy.In some miracles the Spirit operated without medium, but in every instance of teaching and leading the Spirit used words. If the Spirit directed and taught, in the beginning of the gospel, by influence apart from words, by hunch, or feeling, or premonition, or suspicion, then the receivers of his occult maneuvering could never be absolutely sure of the lesson or of the intent. They would be left to guess and surmise as to what information was being imparted. But words are not like that. If the words are simple, clear and concise there can be no misunderstanding. Paul and Peter knew exactly what the Spirit wanted them to do. The Spirit spoke "expressly" to Paul. That is, in express words. It was not by mere hints, and symbols, and shadowy images of the future; it was in an open and plain manner-in so many words.
Our words may sometime sound confusing because, in our human limitations, we do not use language as we ought. But the Holy Spirit is God and therefore what he does is perfect. The Holy Spirit's words are precise and leave no room for misunderstanding, unless, of course, one is predisposed to misunderstand. Jesus said, "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). The key here is in being willing to do God's will, not our own will. If we are truly concerned to know the will of God, we shall know it.
What did the apostles and prophets of the first century teach and what was the burden of their preaching? When Phillip joined the eunuch of Ethiopia in his chariot, he noted that Queen Candace's treasurer was reading this passage, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation, who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Phillip, and said, I pray thee of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other? And Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture, preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:32-35).
There you have it, in the Holy Spiritís characteristically clear manner. Phillip preached Jesus!
Paul wrote to the brethren at Corinth, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). He also wrote, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:23).
Paul further said that Christ sent him to preach the gospel; that woe would be unto him if he preached not the gospel; that he was ready to preach the gospel even in Rome; that he strived to preach the gospel (I Corinthians 1: 17, 9:16; Romans 1: 15, 15:20).
Paul was determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ, but he struggled to preach the gospel; he preached a crucified Jesus, but woe was to him if he did not preach the gospel. Therefore we know that when Paul preached Jesus, he preached the gospel; and, in preaching the gospel, he preached Jesus.
Hear Paul, "Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:1-4). When Paul preached the gospel, he preached the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
What did Phillip preach, in Acts chapter eight, when he preached Jesus? The details of the sermon are not given in the New Testament. But we have a pretty good idea on the basis of what others taught when they preached Jesus and on the basis of what any reasonable person would preach in preaching Jesus. He must have spoken of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection. He must have mentioned the great commission of the Lord, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16). We are absolutely certain that, in preaching Jesus, Phillip preached baptism; because, "as they went on their way, they came into a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (Acts 8:36). The eunuch would not have known to ask to be baptized if Phillip had not told him about baptism and its importance. The preaching of baptism was a part of preaching Jesus, and preaching Jesus is the same as preaching the gospel, therefore baptism is a part of the gospel.
What does it mean to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets? It obviously means to be built upon their teaching their words. And what did they preach? They preached Jesus! Therefore "other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.""
This is beautifully tied together in Matthew 16:16-18 where Simon Peter said to Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Jehovah made it known that Jesus was his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. On the sure foundation of that revelation, Jesus built his church.
Recollect the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit's work in revealing truth through words. The revealed truth is the gospel, by which we learn of Jesus, his teaching, his mission, his exaltation and victory.
In Luke 8: 11 God's word is seed; in Hebrews 4:12 it is a sharp and piercing sword; in Jeremiah 23:29 it is like fire and a hammer; in James 1:25 it is a mirror; in Psalms 119:105 it is a lamp and a light; in I Peter 2:2 it is nourishing milk; in Hebrews 5:14 it is solid food; in John 4: 11 it is living water; in John 4:33 it is the bread of life; in John 17:17 it is truth; in John 6:63 it is spirit; in Philippians 2:16 it is life; in Romans 1: 16 it is power; in Hebrews 6:5 it is good; in 2 Corinthians 4:4 it is glorious; in I Peter 1:22 it is incorruptible; in Psalms 1 19:103 it is sweeter than honey; in Proverbs 5:4 it is bitter as wormwood; in Romans 10: 15 it is glad tiding of good things; in James 1:21 it is an implanted word able to save the soul of man; and in Ephesians 2:20-22 it is the foundation upon which the church is built. It is above all else the very word of very God!
It is not possible to overemphasize the importance of the uneffing truth of God's infallible revelation. It is our only safe guide.
The gospel is the power of God to save. There is amazing and astonishing potency in the word of God. It is the strength of the church. To the extent the church sounds forth the full teaching of the New Covenant, and only to that extent, does the church have a message for the world. The greatest need of man is salvation from past sins, maintaining a present salvation, and receiving a future and eternal salvation. The gospel is the only power that can answer this basic and persistent need. When the church is prostituted and turned aside from her primary mission of preaching a gospel of eternal salvation, the church loses her purpose and flounders in sheer impotency. When the church heralds the good news of salvation to lost and dying men, she shines forth in splendor and with telling power. In the past, when the church gave her full attention to presenting to the perishing of earth the prospect of salvation in Christ and the hope of life and immortality, the church grew and prospered. Conversely, when the church forsook this holy ground and dabbled in purely mundane considerations, she was ignored and ineffective.Brethren, the gospel is our power! Let us never forget that. When we are true to our work of proclaiming the gospel, we have great power. When we fail in our work of declaring deathless verities to undying souls, we have no power, and it would be better for us to cease to be. Ring it out! Ring the message out! Till the sinful world be won for Jehovah's mighty son; Ring it out! Ring it out! To all the lost of every nation, ring the message out! Because the revealed wisdom of our Mighty Maker is potent and precious, cunning forces are at work to destroy faith in that undying word. The serpent in the garden, the false prophets, the priests of Baal, the beast of Ephesus, the roaring lion, the evolutionist, theological liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy are brothers under the skin. The one aim of all unbelievers and heretics is to undercut and destroy faith in the divine volume and thereby to erode the very foundation upon which the church is built. The great red dragon, with its seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems, of Revelation chapter twelve, is yet making war with all who keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.
Satan is at work in the world and we must not be ignorant of his devices. Any view or position or idea that attacks, openly or covertly, the total reliability and complete accuracy of the Bible is a work of the devil and his servants.
Whether it be lying prophets telling their dreams, or Alexander the coppersmith seeking to harm the Lor4fs servant, or Diotrephes pursuing personal power, or false spirits speaking as of the world, or advocates of human experiences in opposition to God breathed truth, the end result is to cause the unstable to question and reject the new covenant.
We see the doctrines of demons in liberalism, modernism, neo-orthodoxy and evolutionism. We see the fruit produced by demon doctrines in pornography, dishonesty, illegal drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, adultery, fornication, theft, murder, suicide, and such like. Evil men and impostors wax worse and worse.
More insidious and probably more dangerous are the seducing spirits in the church, working through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, denying the one faith and insisting that denominational dogma is, after all, not so bad; rejecting the one body and advocating that the good people of all religious persuasions will be saved; refusing the one baptism and promoting diversity in usage and practice; discarding the one hope and pleading for a humanistic socialism that has its final reward in a decaying house on a perishing earth; trampling underfoot the one Godhead in favor of fallible human philosophy and science falsely so called.
The inane idea that children of God can have siblings outside of God's family, that saints have half-breed relatives born of fornication, is inexcusably silly. Those who come to us today with great, swelling words telling us that soldiers in the army of the Lord must be weak and vacillating and unsure, that we must not press for unconditional surrender and total victory in the battle of Har-Magedon, are traitors to truth and enemies of the cross.
We cannot go forward by retreating. We cannot gain ground by vacating our positions. We cannot defeat the enemy by joining him. We cannot uphold truth by accepting error. We cannot gain heaven by clinging to earth. We cannot please the Lord by catering to Satan. We cannot serve both God and Mammon!
I am sick to death of those who would have us preach the uncompromising commands of the Lord God as if they were some kind of an apology; who would have the heralds of the king proclaim his message in hushed tones as if ashamed of his demands; who would have the servants of Jehovah speak his law as if obeying and keeping the law is optional
Truth, because it is truth, teaches only one thing -- it must be consistent with itself! Anything that differs from known truth is wrong. Denominationalism differs from truth and is therefore wrong -- sinful! The truth is exclusive! The church is exclusive! We must make the distinctive, militant nature of the kingdom of heaven plain to all. We ought not, ever, to deliberately and unnecessarily irritate those we seek to save. God, of course, has not sent us to abuse and insult the creatures of earth. We are not here to skin the sects and demean the denominations and to offend the intelligence of our fellowman.
But neither are we here to deceive by silence, nor to approve the wrong, not to permit evil to go unchallenged. It is not our calling to please men; for if we please men, we cannot be servants of Jesus (Galatians 1: 10). We are expected to speak out boldly in God's name. To speak the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If that pleases men, then well and good -- men deserve credit for having been pleased by truth; but if it displease men, then so much the worse for men and let the truth ring out the more and in clear, sharp tones.
Here is our task, "Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2). If all the world frowns its displeasure, Preach the word! If all the professors in all the schools call you a fool, Preach the word! If leaders of sectarianism and princes of denominationalism fawn over you and flatter you, Preach the word! If those who oppose the sound doctrine of divine revelation weep and howl, Preach the word! Never give up! "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that ye do be done in love" (I Corinthians 16:13,14). Peal out the watch word! Silence it never!
We cannot afford to compromise a single point of God's revelation -- no, not one! We must love the truth, always obeying its demands., The truth saves, frees, sanctifies and brings us to God. We must not be untrue to truth!
Yes, we have problems in the world and in the church. From among our own selves have men arisen to speak perverse things and draw away the disciples after them; the time is here when some do not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears heap unto themselves teachers after their own lusts; and turn away their ears from truth, and turn aside unto fables. What are we to do? What can we do?
When Paul looked about him in his day, he saw "profane babblings" and knew they would "proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some." His answer was, "Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his: and, let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness" (2 Timothy 2-16-19).
The firm foundation shall never fail! It is God's incorruptible and imperishable word. It will not die or decay. It is indestructible and immortal. "Steadfast, serene, for evermore the same, shines on that quenchless light, burns on that inextinguishable flame." "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word of good tiding which was preached unto you" (I Peter 1:24,25). The firm foundation of God is standing!