"For other foundation can no man lay than that laid, which is Jesus Christ."—1Co_3:11.
The divisions of Christianity originated at Corinth. It was here that professed believers began to classify and arrange themselves under human leaders, and to assume human distinctions in religion. One said, "I am of Paul;" another, "I am of Apollos; I am of Cephas," &c. The apostle, in this epistle, especially in the first three chapters, strongly discountenances this course of procedure; shows its carnality; reminds them that all these are the servants of the same Lord, preach the same gospel, are not divided, much less opposed to each other; that there is but one true and saving foundation: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Let us consider,
I. Christ as a foundation.
The term is architectural, and refers to that which is the lowest part of a building, and on which the whole structure rests. It is often employed, however, to denote the beginning of any thing, and sometimes the essential principle of any system. In our text it may be considered applicable to each or the whole of these significations. The church is a spiritual edifice, and Jesus is the foundation stone, as well as the head of the corner. Redemption is a dispensation of grace and mercy to man; of that dispensation Jesus Christ is the beginning. Christianity is a system of truth: of that system Christ is both the centre and the essential principle.
1. Christ is the foundation of the gospel.
The gospel is emphatically the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is its founder, source subject, and glory. All the doctrines of the gospel, all its privileges, all its bless ings, are from him, and from him only All its ordinances bear his name, and all its light and glory emanate from him.
2. Christ is the foundation of a sinner's acceptance with God.
He is the only way of access to God He is the one Mediator—the true propitiatory, or mercy-seat. We are justified by faith in him, and are accepted in the Beloved. "We have redemption in his blood even the forgiveness of sin."
3. Christ is the foundation of a believer's hope.
The Christian is begotten to a lively hope; but it is by the resurrection of Christ from the dead; 1Pe_1:3. Christ is in him, the hope of glory; Col_1:27. The believer's hopes relate to full and complete salvation—victory in death—an entrance into the kingdom of glory—resurrection from the dead, in the likeness of Christ—and eternal bliss in the presence of God forever. But all these grand and sublime hopes rest on the Saviour. We conquer through him; die happy only in him; are admitted into paradise by him; shall be raised by his power, and have eternal life flowing from him.
4. Christ is the foundation of the whole church.
Peter confessed his glorious and divine character—affirmed that he was the Son of the living God. "And on this rock, (this true and stable confession,) will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it." "He is Head over all things to his church;" "Alpha and Omega;" and "all and in all;" Isa_28:16.
II. The distinguishing characteristics of this foundation.
It is distinguished,
1. For its strength.
And this is of the utmost importance in a foundation. Were it frail and yielding, the safety of the building would be endangered. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Psa_11:3. But this foundation is Omnipotence itself. "The Lord is a rock; and his way is perfect." He possesses all power both in heaven and on earth. He is both "the wisdom and power of God." It is distinguished,
2. For its suitability.
It is so to Deity—every way worthy of him, in which all his perfections are most gloriously displayed. Worthy of his wisdom, truth, holiness, justice, &c.
"Here the whole Deity is known,
Nor dares the creature guess
Which of the glories brightest shone,
The justice or the grace"
It is also suitable to the sinner—exactly adapted to his state and circumstances. Here is mercy brought down to a level with his condition. Here is all his need, and all within his grasp—
"A balsam for his every wound;
All, all he wants is here."
It is also distinguished,
3. For its perpetuity.
It is not affected by the changes of the lines, or by the revolutions of the kingdoms of this world. It is through perpetual ages invariably the same. It is the only foundation which the righteous have ever had to build upon. It is the only one on which all the saved to the end of the world must rest. Patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, &c., have all built on this foundation. And there is inscribed upon it, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever."
III. The folly and impiety of attempting to lay any other foundation than that is laid.
The text supposes that men would attempt this, and affirms the impossibility of effecting it. And the history of the church amply bears out this supposition. How many false foundations have been laid, and embellished, to attract and draw men from the only Saviour of sinners! What mixtures of hay, straw, and stubble!
In what way do men attempt to lay another foundations?
1. By trusting alone to the dictates of unsanctified reason.
What havoc have these luminaries of nature made among the spiritual doctrines of the cross!—un-deified the Saviour; extinguished the Holy Spirit; frittered away the atonement; made Satan and Satanic agency a visionary illusion; placed a col repentance, and a lifeless faith, and a spiritless morality, as the basis of salvation. We find it impossible to exclude such from being of those who lay another foundation This is done,
2. By relying on our own righteousness for acceptance with God.
This may be done in a thousand ways and forms. By trusting to our honesty, or to the absence of notorious and flagrant crimes, acts of generosity, of devotion, of self-denial, of correctness of creed, of public profession. All these things are well in their own place, but absolutely worthless as our soul's foundation; "for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." Rom_3:20-28; 2Ti_1:9; Tit_3:5. This is done,
3. When we rest solely on God's mercy to the exclusion of the Saviour's merits.
It is a glorious truth that God is merciful; but it is in the provision, by and through Jesus, that this mercy is most strikingly manifested; therefore the rejecter of Jesus despises the brightest display of this divine perfection. Besides, Jehovah is just, and holy, and true; and he has asserted that the unbeliever shall inevitably perish. Joh_3:18; 1Jn_5:10.
The folly and criminality of attempting to lay any other foundation will appeal when we reflect on,
1. The sufficiency of the one laid.
He is able to save all; and all to the uttermost. He is the Saviour of all men, especially of them who believe. He wills the salvation of the chief of sinners. Ho never rejected any humble suppliant. All who have come to him have been received, and in nowise did he ever cast them out. How foolish and wicked to reject this foundation!
2. It is to reflect on Jehovah's wisdom and goodness, and on Christ's sufficiency to save.
This foundation is identified with the depths of infinite skill; with the boundlessness of divine love; with the unspeakable preciousness of Christ's blood. To attempt to lay another is to set at naught these perfections of Deity, and to trample under foot the blood of Jesus. It is the exaltation of self-device and self-sufficiency above God and his Son Jesus Christ.
3. It is to involve the soul in remediless wo, by the rejection of the only Saviour.
He who rejects the light of life must dwell in darkness. He who rejects the one Saviour perishes necessarily and virtually by his obstinacy and crime. There is no other Saviour—no other refuge—no other remedy. He is the life of the world; to reject him is to be guilty of our own soul's blood, and to go down to the pit by the stroke of our own suicidal hand.
1. The invaluableness of the gospel foundation. Sinner, come to it; build upon it. Believer, rest with assured confidence upon it. It can never fail; all is secure here.
2. Necessity of a personal acquaintance with it. Religion is a matter of experience as well as theory. The heart must be right as well as the head. The foundation must be beneath us. Let us,
3. Guard against any thing having Christ's place. Our motto must be Jesus always,—Jesus only—Jesus forever.