If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do? (Ps. 11:3)
What are the foundations whose destruction leaves the righteous wondering what they can do?
Psalm 11 is a short psalm. It focuses on two things only: wickedness and righteousness. “The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain he will rain blazing coals; fire, sulfur, and scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous. He loves righteousness. The upright shall see his face” (vs. 5-7).
The foundation of God is simple. The apostle Paul describes it in 2 Tim. 2:19 as well:
God’s firm foundation stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.”
Today, many things other than righteousness are offered as a foundation, while the true foundation of God is being wrecked by false doctrines.
The most frightening doctrine of all is our modern view of the atonement, for several reasons:
- It is close to the truth.
- It has an emotional appeal and an almost universal acceptance that makes it hard to assail.
- It makes an easily acceptable alternative to the apostles’ Gospel.
- It destroys the foundation of God by teaching people that they do not need to depart from unrighteousness.
The Atonement and Righteousness
Is it not common in Christian churches to reference the atonement of Christ and announce that our works don’t matter?
One of the most important verses in the Bible for the church today is 1 John 3:7: “Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
Our understanding of faith and works is clearly skewed. Because of our interpretation of Paul, we contradict Paul. Because of our understanding of faith, works, and the atonement, we announce that the unrighteous, who are not really unrighteous because of the atonement, will surely inherit the kingdom of God. Paul tells us …
Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. (1 Cor. 6:9)
The Apostles’ Gospel and the Atonement
Every major evangelism program that has spread through Evangelical churches, such as Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion and the Southern Baptists’ “Continuing Witness Training,” has substituted inaccurate teaching on the atonement for the apostolic Gospel.
Apparently, very few people have thought about reading through the Book of Acts to find out what the apostles preached to the lost. Instead, we study the letters to the churches, letters in which the apostles are talking to already saved Christians, and we teach theology meant for Christians to the lost.
A trip through Acts gives a much different outline of the Gospel than is given by Evangelism Explosion and “Continuing Witness Training.” The Apostles Gospel, which ought not to be reduced to an outline, can be summed up in one nonetheless:
- Jesus came to the earth working miracles.
- He was crucified by his own people.
- God raised him from the dead, thus proving him to be the Messiah (Christ), the Son of God, and the Judge of all the earth.
- God chose and sent the apostles to be witnesses of this resurrection.
- All who believe, repent, and are baptized can have their sins forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit.
This Gospel of the apostles produces actual righteousness that was lived out. Paul described his Gospel as being:
I … declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)
If the Foundations Be Destroyed …
If the foundations are destroyed, what are the righteous to do?
The answer is that many of them are perishing. Peter tells us that it is hard for the righteous to be saved (1 Pet. 4:18) and that it requires us to “be more diligent to make our calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).
If we do not give that diligence, Peter warns that we will be “blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from [our] old sins” (2 Pet. 1:9).
We will give that diligence if we know to give it. In fact, we will give that diligence only if we are exhorted and encouraged to give it. Otherwise, we face the danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin:
Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God; but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called “today”; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:12-14)
The foundations are being openly attacked. The attack is veiled, hidden behind a doctrine of the atonement that sounds so good and so loving.
Any doctrine, however, that teaches the saints of God that they need not depart from iniquity is an attack on the foundation of God, and if the foundations be destroyed, what are the righteous to do?