In 1866 England, Samuel J. Stone wrote the classic hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation.” Charles Wesley’s grandson, Samuel Wesley, supplied the melody. Like many of the hymns of its day, Stone’s words conveyed not so much a worshipful tone as they did a bold affirmation of faith. In fact, the hymn was one of a twelve-hymn collection inspired by the twelve articles of the Apostle’s Creed. Stone created the collection in response to a period of heated theological schism within both the Church of England and the Church of South Africa. The Church encountered a crisis over the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the role of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation. It was Samuel Stone’s deep conviction in the unity afforded by the foundation of Christ Jesus that led him to write,
“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.”
Many of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea feature amazing stonework dating back centuries. Egypt, Athens, and Rome all boast architecture that has stood for millennia. In Jerusalem, the Western Wall is a retention wall for the Temple Mount. It remains as one of the last remnants of the Second Temple. The wall is over a hundred feet tall, sixty feet of which stands above ground. The construction contains the “Western Stone,” one of the largest building blocks known to history, weighing in at around 570 tons. Though time, war, and weather besieged them, the stones were fit and placed so closely that they remain as solid today as the day they were laid. Then again, it’s not the fit that makes them stand.
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Luke, Jesus drew upon the commonly understood building principles of that day.
“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Luke 6:47-48 NASB).
The Church’s One Foundation
The archeological site at Capernaum lies on the northwest banks of the Sea of Galilee. If you were to walk through the structures there, you would encounter the ruins of a fourth-century synagogue that is typical of stone construction, even in the remote parts of Galilee. The featured photo for this week’s post shows one corner of that synagogue that has been excavated to show a second, darker stone foundation. This rock is thought to be a remnant of the original synagogue where Jesus preached. It was on this spot that He spoke very directly of His role in salvation.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ ” (John 6:53-54 NASB).
This principle is ultimately the place to which we must “dig down” to get to the foundation of God that will stand through eternity. Christians disagree regarding small things every day. Paul disagreed with Barnabas, (Acts 15:39). Peter and Paul saw things differently, (Galatians 2:11). Disagreements arise, and Christians can be angry so long as they settle it before the sun goes down, (Ephesians 4:26). Nonetheless, conflict does not form the bedrock of the Kingdom. Through all the dust and dirt and mud of messy human relationships, we keep digging down. Sooner or later we stand together on the foundation of Christ.
The Holy Temple
We’ve read the Scriptures; we know there will be a third Temple. Immediately, the political barriers and complexities of a physical building on the Temple Mount come to mind. Perhaps we’re neglecting the building wherein God’s interests lie.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB).
Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36). Just as Jesus’ interest was in a spiritual kingdom, His love is for a spiritual temple.
“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5 NASB).
It’s easy to point out where we are different. It’s simple to find where we disagree. There are thousands of opinions that make Christians refuse to talk to one another; yet, there stands one, unshakeable reason for agreement. One hundred and fifty years ago, Samuel Stone wrote, “The Church’s One Foundation.” In conflict and uncertainty, Stone evaluated the Truth on which his faith rested. He penned, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.”