Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, January 3, 1999

One Stable Foundation
by Pastor Bob Burridge 1999

1 Corinthians 3:11


The church has never been without conflicts.
The first sons of Adam and Eve represented the beginnings of that conflict. Cain murdered Abel because his brother's worship was acceptable and his was not. Those who want innovation, new ideas, or liberty to compromise outside of God's law, have never been kind or tolerant toward those who are faithful and obedient.

We saw conflict again in the time of Abraham, and when the Israelites stood against Moses. The times of the Judges, the Kings and the prophets were saturated with wars from enemies without, and heresies threatening from within. Every period of history, Old Testament, New Testament and all the ages since then, show that those who are the enemies of God become the enemies of God's people.

The Apostle John warned, "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:11-13)

Evidently this is how God intended to make known his truth and the triumph of his justice and mercy. Aside from conflicts, Christians seldom dig deeply into the word of God. The greatest advancements in understanding the Bible have always come in doing battle with those who have challenged God's truth and moral principles.

In the mid 1800's the doubts of theological liberalism started to take its toll on the church. Around 1863, Bishop John William Colenso wrote a book The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, Critically Examined. A great dispute broke out between Colenso and Bishop Gray

The theological liberals were those who believed that the Bible was not God's true word. They rejected the idea that Moses wrote the first five books of Scripture. By using the various names of God they broke up the Pentateuch and Joshua into fragments of sayings which they said were pieced together later by priests and editors to manipulate the Jews for political reasons. By rejecting the Bible and saying it was just the words of men, they had removed the boundaries that kept individuals, churches and societies from moral ruin.

The theological-conservatives were those who continued to accept the Bible as God's word. Great scholars pointed out the absurd fantasies of the liberal doubters. Great preachers called the people to stand firmly against the speculations of men.

One such pastor was Samuel J. Stone, of the Church of England He was born in 1839 at Whitmore, Straffordshire, England. He graduated from Oxford. For most of his career, he pastored two parishes in London.

Ministering on the East side of London he worked with the poor and underprivileged communities. He became known as the poor man's pastor. It was written about him that there, "he created a beautiful place of worship for the humble folk, and made it a center of light in the dark places."

He was know as a chivalrous man of spotless character. But his gentleness and love didn't make him weak in the midst of the growing conflict. He emerged as a strong warrior for the conservative faith. His love for God and for his people would not let him give in, or find compromised wording with the liberal critics or the evolutionists whose popularity was like a rising tide.

Three years after Bishop Colenso's controversial book appeared, in 1866, Stone wrote a collection of hymns called, Lyra Fidelium (Lyra of the Faithful). The collection was made up of 12 hymns based on the Apostles' Creed. In them he countered the modern critical scholars and liberals who threatened the church.

This hymn, The Church's One Foundation, was based on the 9th Article of the Creed. "I believe in .... the holy catholic church, the communion of saints". The word Catholic means "universal." It had nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church.

Stone saw the only possible hope of a true God-honoring union in our basing the church firmly upon the Lordship of Christ as its head. This meant that the church must be ordered by God's word alone, not the views and interpretations of men.

In 1868 Archbishop of Canterbury Longley of the Church of England called the bishops together in what came to be known as the First Lambeth Conference. The church was in great danger from the new ideas that were becoming popular. They chose this hymn by Stone to be the processional and theme hymn of the conference.

The tune used at Lambeth was written by Samuel S. Wesley, grandson of Charles Wesley. He was born in London in 1810 and received his Doctorate in Music from Oxford University at 29. This tune is called Aurelia from the Latin "Aureus" which means "golden". He originally wrote it as the music for Jerusalem the Golden.

The match of Stone's words with Wesley's tune in 1868, and its use at the great Lambeth Conference, made it an instantly popular hymn all over Great Britain.

The hymn, as originally written by Stone, had 7 verses. Most hymnals today publish just 3 or 4 of them. Our Trinity Hymnal has 6. It was soon translated into Latin and several modern languages.

Stone wrote a total of 7 books of verse and helped prepare the 1909 edition of the Anglican Hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern. Today this is the only hymn of his used commonly by the churches.

But what really makes this hymn great is not its history or tune. Its the great truths of God it so powerfully presents:

Each verse presents one central and important theme to encourage the church. There are also many sub-themes that develop each main idea. This hymn could lead to many hours of study into the Scriptures and meditation on its promises. We will content ourselves with just the main theme that extends through the lyrics.

Verse 1 -- The Foundation of the church is Jesus Christ
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.

God had always built his kingdom upon the solid foundation of the revealed promise of a Redeemer.
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

Paul later made it clear that the ancient foundation is nothing other than Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 3:11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the promised Redeemer who reveals the focus of all the rest of God's law.

Clearly Samuel Stone's point is that there can be no other foundation for the church. As Dr. Lenski puts it in his comments on 1 Cor 3:11 ... Jesus Christ, "his entire person and all his work are the foundation that lies fixed and solid forever." "He is both center and circumference"

All other foundations are not only imaginary, they also deeply offend God. The person and work of Christ lies at the bottom of all else. Therefore any attempt to build a church upon human desires, or denying any one idea, is anti-christ.

Today we hear a lot about Christianity being the religion of love and brotherhood. This is nothing less than confusion with New-Ageism. There is no love that does not move toward God's revealed honor and justice. There is no God-honoring brotherhood other than the union of the redeemed in Christ alone.

All the teachings of Christ, and the truth of his whole person and work are important. When only some key teachings are considered as "central and important" we deny this foundation. Truth with a little lie mixed in is not truth at all, but an evil package of deception. If Jesus is anything less that fully God and fully man as presented in the Bible, then there is no hope, not atonement, no solid foundation. Christianity is reduced to a mere philosophy or a set of quaint traditions.

But the building of the church is not just Jesus Christ alone. He is the cornerstone that sets the boundaries and orientation of all that build on it. The Apostles were led of God to reveal and record his truth for us, his people. But its our duty to build the Kingdom. So if we innovate or stray from the foundation, we dishonor Christ and build a false church.

Recalling the words of Isaiah 28:16, Paul writes of the church ...
Ephesians 2:20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

Ephesians 1:22-23 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

The church, therefore, is his new creation, the restored hope of fallen mankind. He sought her to be his holy bride and shed his blood to redeem her from condemnation.

Verse 2 -- The church is made up of those chosen by God to form one great covenant community.
Elect from every nation, Yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, With every grace endued.

The fact of God's election is beyond question in God's word. From all the nations of fallen mankind, God by grace redeems his people into one great union. By applying the work of Christ to those he loves he makes them his adopted children forever.
Ephesians 1:4-6 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love (5) He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

The tenant which marks out his church is their dedication to God's revealed truth. If God has said that something is so, then to believe anything else is tragic error. There can be no other than one Lord, one faith, one birth, one holy name, one holy food, one hope. Stone obviously has Ephesians 4:4-6 in mind ...
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

In gratitude there is only one holy name to be thanked and honored: that of Jesus Christ. There is but one holy food. Not the scholarship or speculations of man, but the inspired word of God as made known to our hearts by his Holy Spirit.

Only one hope has the firmness of God's promise. All other longings are but wishes. To enable us to persevere, God provides everything his children need to finish their course without the possibility of falling short. And he provides it not by asking them to earn it. He gives it to them by grace alone.

Verse 3 -- The church endures the most horrible of internal battles.
Though with a scornful wonder Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; Their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song.

The church from the beginning has struggled with internal disagreements. We all are imperfect and liable to err. Sometimes we sin most wickedly. Our duty, when we see our brother or sister sin, fall into error, or struggle with uncertainty; is to go to that person in private and in humility to help restore that person. Matthew 18:15-16 teaches this in no uncertain terms;
15 And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.

But arrogance can get us in trouble if pride gets involved in our efforts. Paul warns in Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Sometimes, unbelievers find their way into the church. They claim to believe the gospel. But their profession is a false evidence. The Spirit is not at work in them. Their understanding of the gospel is flawed. But it may not become obvious at first. When they miss their sins, or realize that the God of Scripture is not what they expected, they turn from the truth and become goats among the sheep of God.

Those who dare enter the church but who do not submit to all of what they learn are to be handled as God's word demands. They are to be put out of the kingdom, but only after all reasonable efforts to bring them to Christ in truth fail.
Matthew 18:17-18
17 "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.
18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The answer is NEVER found in compromise with error or sin. We can't afford to make a place for difference from what God has made known. The cost is too great! 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 shows that we are to have no fellowship with what is built on a different foundation.
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean\; And I will welcome you.
18 "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty.

When error grips a community of churches there is tragic division and confusion. But though there have been heresies and schisms the faithful look to God for strength and press on. One day the true church will be unified in Christ, free from all error. Until that day the wounded church lives by promise and knows the way to that end because God has marked it out for her in his word.

Having clearly seen the central theme of the hymn, the last few verses expand on our hope:

Verse 4 -- The church is sustained always by her faithful Lord
The Church shall never perish! Her dear Lord, to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish, Is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her. And false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor She ever shall prevail.

The true church of Christ will persevere to the end when our Lord returns and fulfills all his promises. The Lord himself sustains her. She perseveres because He does.

Verse 5 -- The church now awaits the great and final consummation.
Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war
She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore,
Til with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.

Though great difficulties come there is that great promise as her consummate hope.
Revelation 21:4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. "

Verse 6 -- The church's great treasure is her fellowship with God.
Yet she on earth hath union With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly, On high may dwell with thee.

While we await that day of healing and eternal reward, there is our walk in union with Christ here. Our daily walk with him transcends what men outside of Christ could ever imagine. Rich blessing belongs to all who build on the firm foundation.

May this hymn be in our hearts and encourage us along the way.

The Church's One Foundation

by Samuel J. Stone, 1839-1900

1. 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.

2. Elect from every nation, Yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, With every grace endued.

3. Though with a scornful wonder Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; Their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song.

4. The Church shall never perish! Her dear Lord, to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish, Is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her. And false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor She ever shall prevail.

5. Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war
She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore,
Til with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.

6. Yet she on earth hath union With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly, On high may dwell with thee.


NOTE: All quotations of Scripture are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

return to the top of this page