'According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.' 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NRSV)
We could be forgiven, if when we see ourselves as believers for imagining that somehow to address our weak condition we need to lay another foundation in our lives upon which we are being built into the Church. What we need to see, however, is that when the Apostle Paul wrote these things to the Church in Corinth, its meaning carried both a local church meaning, as well a spiritual and heavenly sense of the body of Christ. We cannot be casual about our walk as believers. We must build on a true foundation.
To the Ephesians
'So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.' Ephesians 2:19-22 (NRSV)
Our access through the Spirit to the Father in Heaven is remarkable when we think that we cannot see God with our eyes and yet we can know the Father through the Spirit. One day we will see Him. We know the Father in our spirits by which faith we cry Abba, Father. We enter into worship in the Spirit and in that activity we rise above all the problems of our own lives and seeing the Father by faith, and knowing Christ at His right hand, we can comprehend eternal realities. All of these things transform our natural estate, and for a time, we are transformed. Yet if our minds and fleshy bodies were no more than going after one man of God, instead of looking to God and Christ, then perhaps when we once again remember that we are natural men and women, we may see why we must move beyond being mere men and become spiritual sons.
One way to see this may be to explain things in the form of saying that we yet love the world. The world is that dominion that is under Satan, and of that dominion, Jesus said, 'I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me.' Satan had nothing in Christ, and that speaks, in part, of not loving the world other than in the manner appointed by the Father. It is not that the Father does not love all men that are in the world; it is rather that the love of the world itself is enmity with God. So if we say that fifty years ago things in the churches were more straightforward, as a mechanism for explaining our difficulties; and yet miss that matters in the churches were of the same character, when we mean brethren being worldly, then we may not have realised that today the world now upholds self-promotion. That self-promotion is often called equality and diversity. The Bible calls it the flesh.
A Carnal World
It is self idealism that must be addressed because even when that idealism is grounded in a desire to care for others, self idealism is a more profound obstacle to serving Christ, than worldliness. It is often self idealism that informs our underlying drive to labour in the churches so that as much as we are inclined to labour, and as much as we do labour out of our own experience, all that effort is genuinely wasted if we are not labouring upon a dependable foundation. We have no authority to make a foundation of our own. Yet experience in life, both our own and that of others may well cause us to believe that pressing that experience will somehow prove to be foundational. We may have visions, and those too may very well give us hope, especially when we see others in life as we ourselves have known life. That may be many things. We could cite unimaginable things that we have experienced and others, and yet as precious as it is to be compassionate, our suffering is not the foundation of the Church.
We may also miss that if the churches do indeed seem in a more carnal state today, this is because the world itself has become more carnal; and a church that still loves the world will reflect that carnality. So we can see why the Lord has told us that Satan had nothing in Him in the context of calling Satan the ruler of this world. Visions today can and do speak to conditions or burdens, and sometimes to specific issues. What they cannot speak to is the churches, unless they speak of Christ in His fullness. That means His shed blood, but it also means dying daily. It speaks of receiving forgiveness through His blood, and it speaks of His death. Therefore although we may have received numerous visions that give us hope, only one vision informs our faith to serve.
It speaks of a time when the Lord will begin to address the day in which we live and for an end of making the Church ready to receive Christ in His second coming. What men it speaks of and to what effect in their own lives is a mere detail. Our vision must be Christ and all of Him. If we mean that, then we say the foundation laid down by the apostles and the prophets appointed by Christ, and ours through the Scriptures; and by the Scriptures we have Christ. No vision can remove that meaning, and no worthless peddling of the Word of God will produce Christ.
Nor do I say that experience is a worthless thing. I am saying that the foundation of the Church is Christ – both His blood and His body. Both are unto death. The blood is for forgiveness and the death of His body for deliverance and the sanctification of our labour. Our experience, if it is a true experience informs a pastoral attitude, and so when we come into the dominion of others suffering we can show mercy. That has been understood in only one part by some, who having visions that commission them to labour out of their understanding minds, yet may not labour to an end of sanctifying the body of Christ. We must endeavour to avoid being led on by emotion; if by emotion, we see only ourselves and therefore the flesh, and miss the remedy that we have been given in Christ crucified for sin.