Summary: Is the Bible still being laid as the foundation-word for the church, or is something else supplanting it? Individual messages addressing this critical question.
1. Of Christian Foundations
Has the foundation for the Christian faith been laid once for all, or do we look for new foundations to be poured in every generation? To ask such a thing is to answer it. The idea of digging up the old foundation of a building every forty years, so as to lay a new one is ridiculous. Then if it is certain that the foundation has already been laid, we must be careful to build on that rock only.
In I Corinthians 3:11, Paul likens himself to a construction engineer who is in charge of a special project in his day. He claims that his preaching of Jesus Christ to the Corinthians was essentially the laying of the foundation for the church there. While his comment could be interpreted locally, it is clear that Jesus Himself concurs with Paul's assessment as He speaks to Peter in Matthew 16:
"...upon this rock I will build My church." What rock is that? Peter, to whom the words were addressed? Peter denies that assertion in his own letter, calling himself and the persons to whom he wrote, living stones, themselves built on the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. It was the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Holy Spirit words that emanated from Peter's mouth, that became the foundation of the church worldwide. Every church formed in every generation must preach that message first to qualify as a true church of the living God. Churches built on men alone are disqualified.
But the question of foundations does not end with these statements about Jesus. Ephesians 2:20 indicates that we have been built also upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. If Jesus Himself is the foundation rock, the cornerstone, then those who have preached that message first must be considered a part of that foundation also. Historically, it was apostles and prophets who were in the "mix" of foundational material.
Once we identify apostles and prophets as primary, we of course must go on and tell which apostles and which prophets, and here we run into some problems.
First, the prophets. Are these the Old Testament prophets, most of whom offered some insight into the coming Messiah and His role? Isaiah who foretold His sacrifice. Jeremiah who saw His covenant. Daniel who told us the time of His birth. Micah who pinpointed the place. Malachi who identified His forerunner. Even Moses, who prophesied a prophet who was to come like himself. David also is called "prophet" in the New Testament, and for good reason. He saw Jesus on the cross, and then saw Him in His final reign over all the earth.
Were these prophets the foundation-stones on which the church was built? Works for me. But some may prefer to put forward first century prophets who gave oral revelations about Jesus as eyewitnesses before there was much in the way of a written revelation. Together with apostles, every necessary word and action of Jesus was established, then recorded for us.
Finally, to whom does Paul refer when He speaks of apostles? Any apostles of all time? The twelve? And if so, which 12? Not such easy work here. Paul does open the door to the possibility of apostles being with us throughout the church age. While most evangelicals decry the idea of apostles in their midst, they are quick to empower "missionaries", a title which is seen nowhere in Scripture.