Built on the Rock (1 Corinthians 3)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #909, 645, 618, 619, 923
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. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
Every house needs to be built on a solid foundation. The Christian Church is the spiritual house of the Holy Spirit. Built of Christians as living stones. Each one being a Temple of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. But the foundation must be a solid Rock. This solid Rock is Jesus. Jesus shows Himself as the Rock in many ways. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, He speaks a parable about Himself as the Rock and proper foundation:
- Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
Everyone who builds in faith on Jesus' Word will have their house stand firm. Everyone who builds their house on anything else will find it falling in on itself. Like a house of cards. Because there is no other foundation. But it's also necessary to build with the right materials. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Building with anything other than Jesus' Word and works, you are building with wood, hay and straw. Building with Jesus' Word and works, you are building with gold, silver and precious stones. Wood, hay and straw will be destroyed in the testing by fire. Gold, silver and precious stones will survive the Lord's fire. The foundation and the works must be right for your house to stand firm.
The foundation of Jesus' Word comes through the confession of Him as your Lord and Savior. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the Apostles answered with the popular choices. When Jesus directed the question to His Apostles, Peter answered for everyone, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus praised him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church.”
Jesus builds His Church on the confession of faith in Him. This necessary confession of faith is the reason why we confess the Creed in every service. Every time you confess your faith, you place another piece of gold, of silver or a precious stone upon Christ's solid foundation. Your living stone is further solidified into that strong pillar Jesus calls you to be. Holding up the house of God, as He instructs you in the Sermon on the Mount. As He teaches in Leviticus. Throughout His Word, Jesus teaches you to be strong in your confession of Him. He will be there for you in your time of need. Just as He has always been there for His people.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
- For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
The Rock that followed them around in the wilderness was Christ. Their Savior. Their Lord. He was with them every step of the way. In the highest points of glorious battle. In the lowest points of debauchery and carnal sin. Jesus was there with them the whole time. He never leaves His people. His continued presence is the sustenance of the foundation He has laid down. The foundation He laid down from before the beginning of the world. The foundation He revealed was coming into the world through Daniel.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream. A dream of a statue being destroyed. A statue made of four parts. Daniel comes and interprets the king's dream. The four parts of the statue—the head of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron with feet of iron and clay—were four kingdoms that would rule over the whole earth. In the midst of the fourth kingdom, the kingdom of iron and clay, a large rock carved without hands from a mountain crushed the statue at its feet. The rock obliterated the entire statue into dust. But this rock grew into a great mountain. A kingdom which would never end. This is what God revealed through Daniel about the coming of God's kingdom. The promised kingdom, built on the Rock of Jesus Christ, which had been promised in Eden.
Jesus knew Adam and Eve would fall into sin. As God, He knows everything. However, He didn't abandon them after they fell. He provided the foundation for them and all their descendants: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” In the fullness of time, the time of the iron and clay empire, Jesus—the Seed of the woman—came into the world to lay His eternal foundation. This is the solid foundation upon which Jesus builds His Church. He is the Rock upon which His people can stand. He commands you to stand on Him as your Rock.
But you are not just to stand. You are to build. The Christian life isn't one of idleness. God has set aside works for you to do. Works He thought up for you before the creation of the world. And He commands you to do them. Not because you need them to be saved. Because you have been saved. Therefore Paul says, “I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.”
In Corinth, St. Paul laid the foundation for the congregation through his work with Aquila and Priscilla. His powerful defense of the Gospel in his discussions in the synagogue with the Jews. Eighteen months Paul stayed in Corinth so that the congregation would be properly established. The foundation is laid very thick in the Scriptures, but it needs to be built upon with believers so that the Church may still be here in the world.
Not that the Church will ever disappear. Jesus said, “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The Church will always be here, even if there are only two or three Christians left. Jesus is in the midst of His Church. Nothing will ever destroy it. The devil, the world and our sinful flesh seek to destroy it, but its foundation is not of this world. Its foundation is in Heaven. And Satan, the most powerful of the Church's enemies, has been cast out of Heaven. He cannot return again. He cannot remove what God has established. Try though he might, he will never prevail.
“Built on the Rock, the Church shall stand, even when steeples are falling.” The visible Church seems to be crumbling around us as our society goes further and further away from God's Word. Church buildings sit empty this morning because there aren't enough members or enough pastors to keep them going. This is the sad reality of life in this fallen world. But has the Church failed? Absolutely not. The Church is built on the solid Rock of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing can overthrow the Church because She is Christ's body. She will stand forever. This is how you are to live your life in Christ. Confident that He has overcome the world and all its sin and tribulation.
Dear Christian, do not be afraid to build your life on His foundation. It is the only sure foundation. The one Rock that cannot be moved. Amen.