Over the last four posts (1, 2, 3, 4), we have been building a foundation … or rather, letting the Scriptures tell us what God’s sure foundation is and how to build on it. There are four more passages on God’s foundation, and I will cover them quickly today.
This passage is the same as Matthew 7:24-27, which we covered. If we hear and obey Jesus’ teachings, we are building on the rock. If we do not, then we are building on the sand and are doomed to fall.
This verse has an interesting correlation to 1 Corinthians 3, which we covered. Peter and Apollos taught in Corinth, building on a foundation (Christ) that Paul had laid. Paul says that he does not want to build on the foundations of others.
This presents God’s foundation with a different allegory. The apostles and prophets are the foundation, and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. After searching a few web sites, I think this is the best way to picture it. In ancient construction, one rock was placed in the corner, and everything else was measured from it. The other corners were squared to it, etc. (ref).
So here Paul presents Christ as the most important stone. The apostles and prophets then complete the foundation.
So who are these apostles and prophets?
It is easiest to answer who the apostles are. The apostles are the twelve, Paul, James (the Lord’s brother) and some others. In the early churches it was taught that God sent Jesus with the Gospel, Jesus gave it to the apostles, and the apostles were gifted by the Holy Spirit to pass the truths of the Gospel to the churches they started. The collection of their writings is how we got our New Testament.
Since Paul is saying that the prophets are foundational, it seems that he means the Old Testament prophets. Thus, he is referring to the Old Testament itself since this would have been his “Bible.” The use of “prophets” by Peter in Acts 3:18-21 and “prophecy” in 1 Peter 1:20-21 would confirm this interpretation.
Commentaries make a strong argument that he is referring to the prophets who at that time were common in the Church (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:8-9; Eph. 4:11).
No matter which prophets Paul is inluding, this passage does not change anything we have covered in the first four posts. It merely adds the apostles and either the Old-Testament prophets or the early New-Testament prophets to the foundation in a different allegory where Jesus is the Cornerstone. By using Scripture to build the foundation of our model of the Christian faith, we are already building on the apostles and prophets.
Hebrews 6:1-2 mentions foundational teachings. They are not “the foundation” because that is Jesus Christ. Instead, these are basic, beginning teachings. This passage will be a real confidence booster for us as we proceed. We have been examining the foundation. We will go on to examine obedience, the problem of us, and the solution to the problem in order to complete this foundational study. In the process we will created a framework of teaching upon which all other teachings can be hung.
The writer of Hebrews calls the six teachings of this passage the beginning principles. As we proceed we will find that these six things exactly match the framework of teaching we will be pulling from Scripture as we proceed.
Peter the Rock and Peter’s Confession
In the course of an exchange found in Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus gives Peter his name, which means “Rock,” and then tells him “… upon this rock I will build my Church.”
Protestants and Catholics fight over this passage, but it is unnecessary. Catholics admit that Peter’s confession is the rock on which Jesus built the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 424). Protestants agree with this, but most do not want to admit that Peter himself is the rock as well.
I could argue that the Catholic interpretation makes much more sense, but it is unnecessary because Paul told us in Ephesians 2:20 that Peter, as well as all the apostles, are part of the foundation on which Jesus built the Church. Peter just happens to be the very first rock placed because he was the very first to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The point about Peter’s confession should not be missed. Protestants and Catholics acknowledge that Peter’s confession is the rock on which Jesus built the Church. Peter and all the apostles are part of the foundation, but so is Peter’s confession!
Almost all the non-Catholic Christians I know believe that the rock is Peter’s confession, but almost all of them do not apply it in any practical way. For us, Peter’s confession will become crucially important as we proceed. This is as it should be because Jesus said he would build his Church on that confession!
In the next post we will review what we have covered, and we move on to the next section of the framework of the Christian faith as found in the Scriptures.