“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 3:10,11.
(1) The individual faith of each disciple of Jesus is a building, and as such must have both foundation and superstructure. Every principle of truth or error adopted becomes a part of our faith-building. A building made of wood, and thatched with straw, may look well and for a time protect, but it will not endure like a better and more costly structure. So a faith building constructed with man’s traditions, may for a time look passably well, be less costly and more quickly finished than one built from the precious truths patiently excavated from God’s Word. The former is easily swept away with the storm of infidelity which does not even shake the latter. The one will stand the test of fire and protect its owner, the other will but feed the flame and endanger the owner.
(2) God leaves the building of our faith largely with us. He furnishes us the mine of truth. (John 8:31,32) He places tools within our reach. (2 Peter 1:3) He even urges us to build well with enduring materials, adding virtue to faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, patience to knowledge, etc. Thus he would have us grow in his favor and knowledge and love, following examples of building which he has furnished. — 2 Peter 1:5-7; 3:18
(3) “For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) This statement of the importance of Jesus as the foundation of all faith toward God, is in full accord with the statement that “There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, in which we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12) No other basis of faith will do. Yet some are led astray by laying a basis for faith on another foundation, even another Jesus. (2 Corinthians 11:4) Contrary to what many may propose, this faith is not about joining this or that organization, or of placing faith in this or that leader. Some are quickly influenced by works of an organization or a man, and thus may be led to believe that this or that man, or that the leaders of this or that organization, are God’s specially appointed channel for our time, and thereby build their foundation of faith on submission to such men who may claim to have authority to rule over their fellow believers. Some have been led into Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other groups who have presented certain “evidences” that their group is the one true religion. The “evidences”, usually consist of some “works” they are doing, or of works performed by such a favored leader or leaders; the manner in which these “evidences” are presented may appear to have scriptural support, and thus can be very deceptive, for such often appeals to the carnal mind. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) Beware of these tactics! — Matthew 7:21-23.
(4) Nevertheless, those who build on the rock foundation of Jesus are his disciples no matter how poor their faith may be when they begin to build. Such may be found amongst all the denominations that profess to be Christian. Such may be carried away with many of the traditions of men. Even though they build entirely with the wood, hay, and stubble of men’s traditions, yet, we believe, that many of these are indeed builders upon the Rock, and, as such, they are disciples of Jesus, although they are found to be foolish. Though in the DAY OF JEHOVAH their works will suffer loss, yet such themselves who are true disciples of Jesus will be saved — delivered — so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:14,15) These may suffer loss, but will do so only for disciplining purposes that “the spirit [disposition] may be saved [delivered] in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:5) Thus God has arranged for a fierce trial of faith to come upon all who profess to be on the Rock, Christ Jesus. (1 Peter 1:6,7) Everything which is of man and not from God’s Word will be burned up, whether in this age or in the age to come. — Hebrews 12:26-29.
(5) Many Christians have not carried out their dedication to give up worship according to the flesh. (Colossians 3:5-10) Some remain as babes in Christ all their lives, and cannot seem to get beyond thinking in carnal terms. (1 Corinthians 3:1) Whether through ignorance, or having knowledge, many of the Lord’s servants desire to continue in the worship of the traditions of men, the idols of flesh, and thus have their worship adulterated before God. (Luke 12:47,48; 1 Corinthians 10:14; Ezekiel 23:37) Many may base their faith in something created rather than their Creator, as may be evidenced in worship according to the flesh, such as idolizing and attributing power to things made by the hands of man, unauthorized by scripture. (Galatians 5:19-23; 2 Corinthians 6:16,17) Others hold onto certain doctrines which lead them away from preaching the kingdom and its hope for all mankind. (Ephesians 4:14,15) They spend hours and hours (that could have been used in preaching the Good News) trying to prove certain pronunciation of words or names, trying to prove genealogies, chronology, etc., and often demand in some way that others have to accept their conclusions to be saved, to receive the highest reward, etc. — 1 Timothy 1:3,4; 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14.
ON WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING?
(6) What we have just seen regarding faith structures is important, but our present question is yet more so, because if we are not building on the rock foundation, Jesus Christ, our faith is in vain and our hopes are delusive. — Ephesians 5:5-7; Luke 6:49.
(7) For example, to believe that Mohammed once lived and died on earth does not constitute us Mohammedans, nor give us a basis for faith and hope for a future life. Neither does the simple belief that Jesus once lived and died on earth constitute us his disciples, nor give us a basis for future life. What is needed as a foundation is the belief that Jesus died as our Redeemer. He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” “gave himself a ransom for all”; Jehovah “has laid on him the iniquity of us all”, and that “with his stripes we are healed.” Only this conviction will constitute us his disciples and give a firm foundation for faith that our sins are canceled, and that in his due time all may be released from sin’s penalty death. (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53:5,6; 1 Peter 2:24) Upon the foundation, then, we build our works in accordance with obedience to Jesus, even if such obedience, as found in the Bible, should lead us to appear to be disobedient to the religious efforts of man. — John 14:15, 1 John 2:3-5.
(8) In examining how many build on various foundations other than Christ, we find that some build on “right doing” as a basis of hope that God will grant justify them so that they may live forever. These are not building on the Rock, Jesus. Instead they are building upon their own works. Of this class were the Jews, who sought to justify themselves. (Luke 16:15) While faith without works is dead, the works themselves should not be the basis for our faith. (James 2:20) Paul assures us that such are not building on a good foundation, for “by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight.” — Romans 3:20.
(9) Others build their hope of salvation on the love of God. They feel sure that because God has great pity and with tender mercy, therefore he will ultimately, eternally save every one from death. Such seem to forget that God had the same love for mankind for the past six thousand years, yet he has permitted mankind to go down lower and lower into misery and death. We suggest to these that if God has so long kept love subservient to justice, and never overruled his original sentence of death, their hope rests on a sandy foundation. God’s Word declares concerning him: “with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow.” (James 1:17; Exodus 34:7) Such are not true Disciples of Jesus because they are building a hope and faith on the love of God and not on the only foundation, Jesus Christ, and his sacrificial death for our sins. The love of God provided the foundation, but the love of God is not the foundation needed to build true faith.
(10) Others build their faith on the justice of God as a foundation, and boldly declare that God is bound by principles of justice to save all men out of Adamic death. Their argument is that God placed man in his present condition of sin, misery and death, and that in justice to his creatures he must restore them. To those who reason in this manner and build their hopes of future life on God’s justice, we would suggest that if this reasoning is correct, then many scriptures which tell us that by grace (unearned favor) we are saved, are all untrue, because if Jehovah is obligated to save men on such alleged principles of justice, then salvation is not of grace (unearned favor), but of justice. We suggest, further, that if God is bound in justice to save all men out of death, it is proper to infer that God has been unjust toward man for six thousand years. The inference, then, would be that God will sooner or later be obligated to change his methods and to do right — to turn from doing injustice to his creatures to doing justly to his creatures. Of course, those who believe the last-mentioned teaching would not state matters as we have presented them. Most have never thought that such theories, when reasoned out, leads to dishonor of the name of God. If they had, doubtless they would not be building their hopes on God’s justice — outside of his plan to redeem through Christ Jesus — for if he has been unjust for six thousand years, he might continue to be unjust indefinitely. Thus faith is left on an untrustworthy foundation.
(11) None of these theories are scriptural, hence none of them are proper foundations for faith. Any building fostered thereon is doomed to destruction. We ask the question: “Can those who build on these sandy foundations be properly termed disciples of Jesus?” It is not for us to determine, individually, if they are actually disciples of Jesus or not; one may be a disciple of Jesus who has agreed, and who has been accepted to reach the goal of discipleship, but who may be, for a time, led astray but many and varied doctrines and practices (Ephesians 4:14); in the end, however, only those who eventually prove that their hope and faith is built solely and only on the rock foundation which God has laid — Jesus Christ — will be shown to be true disciples of Jesus. Thus, Jesus speaks of the time when many of his disciples, having been led astray, are disciplined. (Luke 12:47,48) And Paul speaks of a time when they are tried as by fire, so that the spirit may be delivered in the light of the coming day. (1 Corinthians 3:14,15; 1 Corinthians 5:5) And yet, Jesus also speaks of many who will in that day claim that they did many works in the name of Jesus, but Jesus will then tell them that he never knew them (as his disciples). (Luke 7:22,23) Those of this latter class will be shown to never have been true disciples of Christ.
(12) Paul also declares the foundation of all true faith, saying: “I delivered to you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3) In the two preceding verses Paul tells us that this was the Good News which he preached, which they had received, and by which they might reckon themselves saved. This is not all of the Good News — no, there is much more, but it all comes as a consequence of this fundamental or foundation truth. Without this faith in Jesus as our Redeemer, who died and gave his life a ransom for our lives which were condemned through Adam’s sin, we must see that we are still guilty and condemned before God’s law and could have no scriptural grounds for expecting future life. – Romans 5:18.
(13) It is in vain that any tell us that they are building on Christ because they acknowledge him as a leader and noble pattern. All men — yes, and demons also must acknowledge the grandeur and perfectness of Jesus’ life. All must admit that he is a noble example, but to acknowledge Jesus as the foundation of faith in a future life, is to recognize the fact that all men are sinners, and as such JUSTLY condemned to death, and that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. (John 1:29) Thus, by paying the wages of man’s sin – death – he procured for all a release from death, a right to life. He justifies them, or makes them righteous, having a right to life, which in his due time he will give them. – Romans 5:18, 8:24; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.
(14) Jehovah’s plan, looked at from the standpoint of his inspired word, recognizes the impartially and justness of the trial of Adam, Adam’s deliberate violation of God’s just and easy requirement, and the justice of enforcing the penalty which God threatened, that is, DEATH. “In the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die.” (Genesis 2:17, Young’s Literal Translation) God’s foreknowledge of the consequences of Adam’s sin cannot be urged against the justice of his trial, as the trial was the same and had the same results, as though God had not foreknown its result.
(15) God is not responsible for all the mental and physical imperfections of our race. These are traceable as results of sin to Adam our first parent. Here is a thought not generally recognized, that God creates only sinless intellectual beings such as Adam was before he sinned. He who is born of God is without sin. All of the fallen, mentally and physically imperfect men and women, are not God’s creation, but the offspring of disobedience, and are thus sons of disobedience, children of wrath. (Ephesians 2:2,3) These imperfections, therefore, are not chargeable to God, but to Adam’s sin. All die, therefore, as a result of Adam’s unrighteousness and not of God’s injustice. If, then, God was just in condemning Adam, and was in no way responsible to Adam’s offspring, it must have been as the Bible says: “By grace [unmerited or undeserved favor] have you been saved.” (Ephesians 2:5,8) Yes, while we were in just condemnation as enemies and sinners, God so loved and pitied us that he gave his son, that he “by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9) To this agree the words of other scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12,17,19 and 11:32,33. If, then, the Scriptures are true, the theory that Jehovah has dealt unjustly toward the race in condemning all to death, and the argument that he is bound in justice to restore them to life, falls.
(16) Let us look at matters from the standpoint of the divine revelation instead of purely human reasoning. Love is a prominent factor in all of God’s plans and an element of the divine nature. Yet his foreknowledge and omnipotence make it unnecessary for his love to come into conflict with his justice. God had justly condemned man as unworthy of life. God could not do otherwise without denying himself, who he is, for his very character forbids him to allow anything that does not reflect Himself to be considered fit for life. His very nature would demand that the wages of sin would be death. (Romans 5:23) Nor could his Love step in and reverse the decision and set the prisoner free without first satisfying the claims of justice. Should God do so we would properly consider him changeable, and his word untrustworthy. (Malachi 3:6; Isaiah 55:11) Not only so, but, in considering the idea that God’s justness must save everyone, if so, we should realize that either the first or the last decision would be unjust. If the first decision was just, then the reversing of it was unjust. Likewise, if the last decision was just, then the first must have been unjust. God is just and true. In him is no variableness. (James 1:17) He does not simply clear the guilty without exacting satisfaction of their guilt. (Exodus 34:7) The real method God used was to place the guilt of the whole race in one man, so that guilt could be removed by its being placed upon one man. (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:fc21,22; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) The claims of justice were satisfied in the sacrifice of the one man, Jesus. If we say we have no sin [and hence no need of a savior to deliver us from the consequence of it: death], “we make [God] a liar,” for he declares regarding all offspring of Adam condemned in Adam's sin, “There is no one righteous. No, not one.” – 1 John 1:8,10; Romans 3:10; 5:12-19.
(17) All of us who are the offspring of Adam enter life in this condition of sin and condemnation. (Romans 5:12,18) We can neither help ourselves nor each other, because all of us are descendants of Adam. (Psalm 49:7) All of us have received the same condemnation from Adam. But God’s love has provided a means by which he could clear the guilty race and restore them to life and at the same time do it justly. (Romans 3:26) He so loved the sinner, whom he had justly condemned, that he gave his Son that he should taste death (our penalty) for every man. (Romans 5:8; Hebrews 2:9) He was a propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins (the believers’ sins), and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (John 12:47,48; 1 John 2:2) Thus God’s love and wisdom, operating in harmony with his justice, have succeeded in clearing the guilty without any injustice. Only by means of the sacrifice of Jesus could God be just and yet the justifier of sinners. (Romans 3:26; 1 Timothy 2:4-6) An earthly judge could not justly set a convicted and sentenced prisoner free. He could not declare the guilty one guiltless in the eyes of the law. But suppose someone came forward and paid the imposed penalty for the prisoner. The Judge would be just in justifying, or declaring right in the eyes of the law, the one whom he had formerly been just in condemning.
(18) Very few have actually seen into the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:10) Everyone of us have been condemned in Adam. (Roman 5:15-18) If we had been judged individually, more than likely we would have failed even as Adam did. Then each one of us would have needed an individual salvation. In other words, if 50 billion people had been tried individually, and 50 billion people had failed and were thus condemned, then 50 billion more totally obedient and sinless individuals would have been needed to offer up their lives as sacrifices for the 50 billion who had sinned.
(19) How much more economical is God’s wisdom. All of us were condemned in one man’s disobedience. (Romans 5:19) God concluded all in disobedience that he might have mercy on all. (Romans 11:32) By allowing all to be condemned in one, only one perfect human life would be needed as a sacrifice to buy back all the condemned. How grand, how marvelous is God’s wisdom! “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, New American Standard Bible translation) “As through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. . . . . but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:17-21, New American Standard Version translation) “For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3) “God has shut up all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32) “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! . . . For who has known the mind of [Jehovah]? Or who has been his counselor?” “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36.
(20) In conclusion: On what are you building your faith? Is it on the sands of men’s opinions and theories beyond what is actually written in the Bible? (1 Corinthians 4:6) Or is it on the one rock foundation which Jehovah himself has laid — Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” — the one “who died for our sins”? — John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 15:3.