Summary: Laying the right foundation is essential for the church to spread the Gospel and grow.
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
November 2, 2008
Series: The Church in Crisis
I don’t want to mention any names here this morning – partly because I don’t know many of them. But there are a few names I know, so I will speak in generalities. I know this math teacher who has been having some trouble with her students. It seems her students don’t understand the basics yet are expected to grasp the higher math concepts found in Algebra. This obviously presents a problem.
This teacher, God bless her, is very conscientious about her work and wants to see her students thrive, so she spends time trying to remediate – to help lay a basic foundation of mathematic knowledge and ability while teaching them the advanced theories of Algebra. But here’s the rub – because someone else didn’t do their job, a parent who paid no heed to their child’s education, a teacher who advanced a student to either get him off her roles or to keep the student with his social group or a systemic failure that insists all students be rocket scientists, instead of recognizing and developing curriculum for those who are not mathematically inclined, this teacher’s job is now more complicated, more difficult.
Have you ever tried to lay foundation after a building is already built? Have you ever heard of such a thing? No. Why, because the foundation is necessary for the building to stand strong. Otherwise the wind and the rain, the snow and the ice begin to erode the earth beneath the building. And as the ground shifts beneath it, the building gets weaker and more prone to a catastrophic failure. A foundation provides stability.
We all know this, but something else about a foundation that may not be immediately apparent, is that it also dictates how the building is going to be built – where we put wings and doorways and load-bearing walls. The foundation shapes both the form and the function of the building. If we try to build outside the foundation or put too much building on a foundation, either we will put up a building that is in constant need of repair or one that will collapse under its own weight.
Laying the right foundation is important – no more than that, it is essential. Which is why the Apostle Paul spent the first part of his letter to the Corinthians reminding them what is foundational to the Christian faith – what is essential. We’ve been working our way through 1 Corinthians over the past two weeks and in some ways we have found Paul’s needle stuck on the centrality of the Gospel. The first week we talked about the Gospel itself – how it seems foolish compared to the wisdom of the world. When face to face with the physical evidence presented to us by the science community the temptation is to accommodate the Gospel to the scientific view. When presented with the doctrines of tolerance and relative truth and situational ethics coming out of the institutions of higher learning the temptation is to acquiesce, to hedge the Gospel in order to appear more tolerant and not so close-minded. When faced with the thinking of the world, we feel like we have to dress up the Gospel to make it more attractive.
But Paul argued that we don’t have to spruce up the Gospel; we don’t need to adorn it with flashing lights, bells and whistles. We simply need to put it out there in plain and simple language – it is the power of God unto salvation.
And last week we talked about why the Gospel seems so foolish to those who reject it – how what can seem so reasonable to us can be so unreasonable to the unbelieving. After we have embraced the Gospel we forget that we didn’t comprehend it because we are incredibly brilliant and its mysteries couldn’t hide from our piercing intellects. We forget that we were once as dumb as those who just shake their heads and walk away, muttering about fairytales and how we should know better. So what’s the difference?
The Holy Spirit. Salvation, redemption, understanding the Gospel message – its all an inside job! Unless the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart and quickens our understanding, the Gospel will never make sense. We must have the Holy Spirit working in us for us to understand the work that Jesus has done for us.
So essentially Paul is telling us in these first two chapters, embrace the foolishness of the Gospel! Grab hold of it, revel in it, invest yourself in it because it is the way of salvation. Don’t let any slick-talking, promise-making huckster lead you away from the very simple story of the Gospel; Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. That is where our hope lies, it is where life is found and it is the only message that can lead to the salvation of another.