A Foundation Laid in Zion
Over the next few weeks, we are going to take time to examine Isaiah 28:16 in depth. The themes found in this verse are found throughout Scripture, and they present to us the beautiful person of Christ in His glorious preeminence. The subjects of His being the Foundation are indispensable. They affect us practically and doctrinally. And so, as we delve into the passage, please take time to meditate on the verses yourself and the accompanying passages we will refer to as we move along.
“Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” Isaiah 28:14-18
We have before us a glimmer of brightness in a prophecy of darkness and judgment. The people of Israel – rebellious, vainly religious, and resentful toward the things of God – are the recipients of these words from the lips of God, and they needed them! That is why verse sixteen begins with “Therefore…” It is the result of something specific which we see in previous verses of chapter twenty eight; we will examine the context to help us understand the significance of our source-text, verse sixteen.
The chapter begins with a “Woe,” and the prophecy is initiated in that way rightly so, because Israel had corrupted themselves. They twisted the Word of the LORD to fit their own legalism. These characteristics are seen in the Pharisees and religious leaders. To wake them up, God would send the gift of tongues (v. 11) as we see in Acts 2. (As a side note, let us always remember the contextual purpose for this gift; it was primarily for Israel, not for today’s evangelical charismatic believers).
And they were not only legalistic but proud. In verse fifteen, we see Israel in a covenant with death, resting in that ‘agreement’ rather than in the outstretched arm of Jehovah. They took peace for granted. They lost sight of their Foundation. Therefore did the Lord promise judgment along with a promise of a sure Foundation. And at the end of it all, Isaiah could write “This cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts – wonderful in counsel – excellent in working/wisdom.”
Bearing these few preliminary thoughts in mind, we will look at verse sixteen for doctrinal, devotional, and practical truth all based upon the person of Christ. For personal study, cross references include the following: Eph. 2:20, Acts 4:10-12, Is. 8:13-18, Matt. 21:42-45, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17-19, Ps. 118:22-23, Jer. 51:24-26, Gen. 49:8-26, Rom. 10:10-12, 1 Pet. 2:6-8, 1 Cor. 3:11-13, 1 Kings 5:17, and Zech. 3:8-9.
Thus saith the Lord GOD
And while it is vital to understand the context, it is even more important to understand from Whom this prophecy comes. In our verse, it is from the Lord GOD, which is in Hebrew “Adonai (H136) Yahweh (H3069).” Translated into English, it would literally read “Sovereign I AM.” This certainly adds more weight to these passages – does it not?
In fact, it should, because it firstly tells us that this laying of the Cornerstone in Zion was an absolute action: it was a sovereign action which the Great I AM set into motion before the foundation of the world – “Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God… that your faith and hope might be in God.” Because Christ was foreordained to be the Cornerstone, the Foundation on which we build is as secure as the God Who laid it.
And not only does His sovereignty tell us the Foundation’s stability, but we know by the fact that He is the Eternal One (I AM) that our Foundation was not only foreordained, but it lasts forever. Once saved, once built upon the Foundation of Christ, we can never be moved! Our salvation is secure in Him. How precious is our Sovereign I AM!
Therefore, as we look into the main message of this passage in later articles, consider HIM, and realize the privilege of these exceeding precious promises from the very Provider of peace.
Behold, I lay in Zion for a Foundation
We see the first word God says: “Behold!” Truly, when it comes to the person of Christ, He is worthy to set our full gaze upon. “Behold the Lamb of God!” “Behold how He loved him!” “Behold the man!” “Behold your King!” “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us!” It is the Father’s desire to set His Son on display for all to see His glory, and one of His glories is seen in our verse: He is the Cornerstone, a sure Foundation. How often do we spend time “Beholding”? There is much to view of His glories.
But what are we to behold? The Lord laying a stone in Zion. Why is Zion significant? Why is the Foundation there? There are actually several significances.
Firstly, we see that Zion’s first mention is in 2 Samuel 5:7 (first mentions are important, because they show us themes which can be traced throughout the other times a particular word is mentioned). This verse says “Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.” This inevitably points to royalty. For instance, because the Lord Jesus was directly descended of David in both parental genealogies, He was proven to be in line, both legally and inherently, for Israel’s throne. (Note these references: Jn. 7:42 / Rev. 5:5, 22:16 / Mk. 11:10 / Lk. 1:32). And so Zion being the city of David (that is, Jerusalem) points to royalty; and this is the city on which our Foundation was laid, meaning the Lord Jesus was rightful King of the Jews. But when the Jews crucified the Lord of Glory, God initiated the dispensation of the Church (which, by the way, has not replaced Israel) over which Christ is Head. One day soon, the Church will be raptured, bringing in the Tribulation designed to restore rebellious Israel; and Christ, after seven years, will return to earth to judge and take His Throne in Zion as King over Israel, which will then initiate the Millennial reign. That is the basic plan regarding His reigning, and it is based off of our Foundation’s being laid in Zion.
Secondly, we see in Zion an association with the Sanctuary in Psalm 20:2 and 76:2 (see also 78:68-69). That sanctuary was the physical Temple of the Old Testament. And not coincidentally, we see in 1 Kings 5:17 similar characteristics of the Foundation laid in Zion with the foundation of the Temple: “And the King commanded (thus saith the Sovereign I Am), and they brought great stones (a sure foundation), costly stones (precious Cornerstone), and hewed stones (a tried stone), to lay the foundation of the house (Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone).” Much could be said practically about the house of God, but this will be left for later. As for Zion’s being the Temple’s foundation, consider these verses from Ephesians 2: “Ye… are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone, in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” From this we see that He is not only the Foundation of Israel royally, but of the Church which is His Body in His dwelling in us collectively. He can also be seen as the foundation of the local assembly (1 Cor. 3), which is typified also by the Temple. These are truths manifested by the word “Zion.”
Thirdly, we see from Psalm 50:2 and Obadiah 1:17 that holiness is associated with Zion. The Foundation which is Christ was laid upon a “holy hill,” which means that which is built upon this Foundation must be holy (We will also touch upon this later). But when it comes to holiness and Christ’s being laid upon it, we see His moral glories in His life and in His person. Without His impeccability, His perfection, the cross would be simple martyrdom rather than a substitutionary marvel. Without His holiness, He could not be set apart for the work of the cross: “And for their sakes, I set myself apart that they also might be sanctified through Truth.” Christ set Himself apart (holy means “set apart”) to willingly bear our sins on the tree – tremendously precious! And when He became sin for us on that tree, He was no less holy than when He sits upon His throne to judge. Truly it was vital that our Lord Jesus be laid as a Foundation upon God’s holy hill, for He is worthy.
Fourthly, this speaks to us of salvation, for it is said of Zion “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Now, this verse directly applies to Israel, but the fact that Christ is Deliverer and has delivered is true for all who turn to Him. And if it were not for our Foundation’s being laid upon Zion, we would have nothing on which to stand before God. If it were not for our Deliverer, our Redeemer, we could not be freed from the bondage of sin. Thank God He was laid upon Zion!
And finally, we see an interesting connection between Zion and the tribe of Judah: “But [He] chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which He loved.” Why does that matter? Because Christ descended from Judah. And to appreciate this, we will look at Genesis 49:8-12. Please read it all.
“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. “
Briefly, we first of all notice Christ’s preeminence in regards to Israel. It was Judah who the rest of Israel’s tribes would praise, and one day Christ will finally be the Center of Israel’s affection and attention when He reigns millennially on His Throne in Jerusalem – Mt. Zion.
But then notice verse 10. We see all five aspects of Zion considered in that verse: “The scepter (royalty) shall not depart from Judah (the tribe of Judah), nor a lawgiver (holiness) from between his feet, until Shiloh come (means “peace,” as Christ offers peace with God in deliverance from sin): unto him (Shiloh) shall the gathering of the people be (Sanctuary).” These are truths of Zion seen in Judah, and Christ fulfills these truths perfectly. Shiloh’s coming looks to the Messiah – The Foundation laid in Zion. Shiloh’s coming looks to Christ’s taking rightfully the scepter of Kingship, because He is laid upon the holy hill of Zion. And now royalty no longer belongs to Judah, for Christ ended the royal line and will always hold the right to reign. And we who are in Christ have the privilege to reign with Him, even over Israel.
And as Judah would be blessed by prosperity, so do we have part in the unsearchable riches of Christ when we bow to His sovereign Lordship. And we have this all freely! Notice Isaiah 55:1 “Behold, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Notice verse 12 of our chapter (49): “His eyes shall be red with wine and His teeth white with milk.” We find tremendous spiritual, everlasting riches in our glorious Shiloh of Mt. Zion.
A Tried Stone
The Lord Jesus was not only the glorious Foundation laid in Zion, but He was a tried Stone laid in Zion, for it was just outside that holy city of Jerusalem where the Lord of Glory was crucified. Therefore, in our meditations we will consider three elements of that suffering: the purpose of suffering, the place of suffering, and the power that triumphed in that suffering.
Firstly, then, the purpose of that suffering. We see that purpose (it is actually two-fold) in Hebrews 5:6-10. “Though He were a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and being made perfect, he became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him – called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Here it is plain that Christ’s sufferings were that He might learn obedience. This does not imply that He lacked knowledge and an obedient spirit before His birth or that somehow His omniscience was limited, but it tells us that in His suffering He understood and experienced what it meant to fully submit to the Father’s will. Because of these sufferings, He could be rightfully the Saviour of the whole world. Because of these sufferings, He is could be a faithful High Priest, not simply empathizing, but sympathizing. He knows what it means to suffer and therefore intercedes on our behalf knowing what true suffering is. Therefore, we conclude that His sufferings assure us of salvation and of the continual intercession of our great High Priest.
Furthermore, we see in 1 Kings 5:17 that the ‘tried stone’ of our text corresponds with the ‘hewed stone’ (look back to what we learned regarding Zion and the temple). Why were the stones of the temple to be hewn? They were refined so that they could properly fulfill their purpose. Our Lord was, however, never in need of refinement, fir He is and always has been the same glorious perfect Son of God (Heb. 13:8). He was always obedient; that is an attitude of His very person which cannot change. Yet being Who He is, He could not propitiate for sins without His sufferings. And He went obediently to suffer fully in order that He might meet the standard not only of being salvation’s author, but the believer’s High Priest. This is the sense in which He was the tried and hewn stone: He endured the work required to make Him Saviour and Priest. There was no other way (“if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”). This was the purpose of His suffering.
Secondly, though, we then “come to the place which is called Calvary – there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and one on the left.” Notice also the emphasis of “the place” in Matt. 27:33, Mk. 15:22, and Jn. 18:20. We will briefly meditate upon the place of His suffering.
This, first of all, was the place of transgressors, for it was with two malefactors He was nailed. The chapter beloved by many, Isaiah 53, tells us Christ was “numbered with the transgressors and bare the sin of many.” Imagine – the Lord of glory and holiness counted by man as if a sinner! What a tremendous fear for the Son of God to descend from Heaven for the purpose of “being made sin for us.” Tremendous! And as Jehovah’s sword awoke to bring justice by wrath, it woke against the Shepherd, because in the eyes of God it was that Shepherd upon Whom our burden of sin lay.
And therefore, it has become the place of propitiation. Notice the three places in Scripture propitiation is mentioned and the things associated with it. Romans 3:25 “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” 1 John 2:2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (This clearly refutes limited atonement). 1 John 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
And because of that substitutionary death and His immense suffering, Calvary became the place of forgiveness, for in the verse after Luke 23:33 we see the words “Father, forgive…” How precious – in spite of the mockery of the human heart and mouth (v. 35), our Lord could say “Forgive!” Our forgiveness today looks back to a place – Calvary – and to a Person – the tried Stone.
Lastly, we see the power in that suffering. Thankfully, Calvary was not the end, but only a beginning display of the great power of His might! As a tried stone, some would view Him as weak and pitiful. Some would scoff “He saved others: Himself he cannot save.” But Calvary was not merely a scene of mockery, but a foundation of majesty. Paul said “I count all things loss… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” The resurrection is power! And Christ was the author of that power: “I have the authority to lay down my life, and I have the authority to take it up again.” Yes, we may look to the cross and see the trials of our Lord (and rightly so), but we can look three days later and see the triumphs. The Lord said “A woman, when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for a joy that a man is born into the world.” Truly, the Lord had sorrow when His hour was come, but His sufferings are over and His joy is in us. “Jesus… for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, counting the shame as if nothing.” Imagine! The Lord counted His shame as nothing compared to the joy He would find in our redemption. But there’s more. The verse continues “… and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He is not only the Man Who offered Himself a sacrifice for all, but He is a Man in the glory. And we are identified with Him, for we are built upon His Foundation. These are all truths of His being the tried Stone. “Thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A Sure Foundation
Christ is not only the Man of trial, of sorrows, and not only is He precious in our eyes, but as a Foundation he is secure. There are two main aspects of this sure Foundation: its permanence and peculiarity.
First, its permanence. When we think of a foundation in itself, we think of it as settled and unmovable, and it is certainly no different with the word “foundation” here. But notice the word “sure.” If one were a Hebrew reader, he would notice that these two words are almost the exact same in the original. What does that imply? Well, the wordfoundation already implies security in itself, but when it is described by a word that is nearly the same in meaning, it implies such as strong standing that nothing can move it – ever! What a privilege to build upon it! We will touch on what that means later.
Paul in his letter to Timothy emphasized this: “Nevertheless [in spite of false doctrine] the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal – the Lord knows them that are His.” This is the application of our Foundation’s security. Our being built upon the Person of Christ offers assurance to our souls: the Lord knows them that are His! And notice even the surety in this knowledge: “The Lord (absolute) knows (absolute) them that are (absolute) His.” Throughout the endless ages of eternity our salvation will remain just as secure as on the first day we believed. Salvation is precious, because it is steadfast: it could only be taken from us if the Lord Jesus ceased to be Who He is – an impossibility.
And furthermore, it is peculiar as it is permanent. Notice that the Lord knows them that are His. There is an exclusiveness to building on this foundation. And it’s not only exclusive regarding us, but the Lord Jesus Himself. Notice the words of Paul and of Jeremiah: “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” “And they shall not take of [Babylon] a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations…” In Jeremiah’s prophecy, the Lord sentenced Babylon to a destiny of desolation: they were guaranteed of no permanence. And Babylon is a picture of the world: there would be no foundation stone taken from the world. Yet for the people of God, Christ is the only true Foundation. There is no other Gospel to preach. There is no other doctrine to teach. There is no other Person to reach. Christ is all! And only Christ is all. How precious a Foundation – and how precious that we are built upon it!
He That Believeth Shall Not Make Haste
And so, we have come from the Person of the Lord God, from the tried and precious Stone of Christ, to those who have the opportunity to believe. There are two simple parts to these meditations: “He that believes” and “shall not make haste.” The ESV says “Whoever believes will not be in haste.” The NASB says “He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” The NIV says “The one who trusts will never be dismayed.” And the HCSB says “The one who believes will be unshakable.” The Companion Bible notes that this is a figure of speech accurately interpreted in the New Testament as “He that believes (trusts) on Him shall not be ashamed (or confounded)”
But note the difference between Peter’s and Paul’s writings. Peter says “He that believes on Him shall not be confounded.” Paul says “Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed.” Here we are presented two aspects of gospel preaching: the collective and the individual. What a wondrous thing to know – that whether speaking to a crowd of thousands with dozens of ethnicities (“whosoever”) or speaking to one individual alone (“he that”), the gospel applies to all! Peter also emphasizes the security of an individual’s foundation, while Paul emphasizes that Christ can mean everything to whosoever, regardless of background. Amazing the way God’s Word cites this verse, is it not?
In reality, this is a great verse of the Gospel, the Foundation of which is a Person. And when it comes to the gospel, we know that souls have nothing to do but “Believe (trust, rest) on the Lord Jesus Christ” in repentance. Why, though? Because of the Finished Work? Because of the resurrection? Because of our depravity? Yes to all of these. But there is another aspect to believe we cannot afford to miss: the foundational aspect of Christ. Believe could also be translated “trusting.” That implies one’s resting upon another person; and in order to rest, there must be a secure foundation upon which to do so! And truly there is.
And when it comes to gospel preaching, we have something tremendous to preach about. Telling sinners about the Lord Jesus is precious, because we know that He will never let us down. Let us never understate the assurance available for those who truth Christ nor underestimate the value of our Foundation’s security. It’s amazing to even have this assurance available in such an insecure and uncertain world. It’s amazing “he that believeth” is even a possibility, yet not only a possibility but even a reality.
And for those who have entrusted themselves to Christ, who have taken their standing upon Him, they can rejoice in the latter part of the phrase “shall not be confounded.” Notice what Romans says: “The Scripture saith, ‘Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed,’ For there is no difference between the Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him.” Peter says “Unto you therefore who believe, He is precious.” We see here two elements in relation to His promise of remaining firm as a Foundation. The Person of Christ and the riches of Christ, These are both part of what it means to “not be confounded.”
Firstly, the Person of Christ – and exhausting that truth is truly an insurmountable task! But in reality, our life goal is not to know all the doctrines and truths and glories of Christ, but to appreciate and worship from what we God has show us of Him. What, then, do we know of Him? We know that His death was sufficient for all to be saved, though all are not (1 Jn. 2:2). We know that His death meant bearing wrath on His precious soul. We know that He conquered death by His authority to take up His life again. We know that He sits at the Father’s right hand as High Priest in glory and majesty, and yet in humanity as He waits to reign as King. These are the basic truths of Christ, and in them there is much cause to worship. Truly to us who have been brought into this grace where in we stand have much reason to call Him Beloved! May we learn to appreciate Him for Who He is – it is through Him that we will never be confounded.
But secondly, think of the riches of Christ. He is “rich unto all that call upon Him.” This calls for an appreciation, not only of Who Christ is, but of what He gives. What do we have in Christ? Eternal life – abundant life. Inheritance. Assurance. The mysteries of God revealed. The local assembly. Access to the Throne of Grace. A Gospel to preach. The list goes on! Ephesians describes all we have in Him as “unsearchable riches.” Indeed! As believers, we can know that every good gift is from above, we can know that our inheritance is undefiled and fades not away, and we can know that our assurance in these things can be as firm as our Foundation. He has truly been rich unto us who have called upon His name. And as we continuously experience His mercies morning by morning, let us rejoice, for those are the riches unto us who have called upon Him! He never lacks in promises. He never lacks in preciousness.
Lessons Regarding Holiness
We noticed when it came to Zion that it was a holy hill. Doctrinally, this is valuable, but it is also important to challenge our hearts in its practical aspects also. Notice, then, that what we build must reflect that which it is built upon: “Be ye holy.” Why? “For I am holy.” What a tremendous reason! As we build upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, holiness is a must, for we reflect Him and should strive to do so accurately. A sad thing indeed for a soul to discount the person of Christ because of the bad testimony of one believer. But for our own lives, we must be holy for the reason that our Foundation is laid on a holy hill. Even if rewards for holiness were not in the picture, we still must be holy for the reason of His character. And in reality, that reason should be foremost in our minds. And so, when we build, let us do so in holiness. Every aspect in life – the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the friends we fellowship with, the words we speak – affects testimony and fruitfulness. And because we are identified with the Lord Jesus, every action we do – whether good or evil – is, in the world’s eyes, an action that reflects the One we serve, whether that be true or not. They see a Christian, and whatever follows in that person’s character is what they identify as a follower of Christ. This is why every aspect of life, of building upon our Foundation, must be lived in holiness. The testimony of His person is at stake!
Lessons Regarding the Church
We now come to the practical aspect of our Foundation regarding the Church. Keep in mind that there must be a distinction between universal (comprised of all believers) and local (comprised of a local company of believers) aspects. We will deal separately with each matter.
The Universal Church
The source-text for our considerations is in Ephesians 2:19-22 – “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner Stone; In Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
In this passage, we see three main, essential points for every believer to consider as members of Christ’s Body: (1) Fellowship with believers in necessary, (2) Daily life should be lived in acknowledgment of God’s presence, and (3) Christ is the Cornerstone of Scripture.
Firstly, part of claiming to be one of Christ’s means claiming identity with His people. Notice that we are “FELLOW-citizens WITH the saints.” Here we see clearly that we are not only individually identified with fellow believers, but that this should be expressed in fellowship with them. Just as one can claim membership with a family, yet spend little time with them, so can a believer claim to love the people of God, yet not fellowship with them. However, this is wrong. Local church fellowship is, in fact, vital. Separation from worldly friends is actually indispensable. Those with whom we associate will affect our testimony, our holiness, our convictions, our attitude, and our obedience. O may we not compromise these things by fellowship with the world! By no means – instead we must identify with our fellow-citizens of Heaven and must fellowship with them.
Secondly, as part of Christ’s body, even when not assembled locally, we see that together universally believers make up a holy temple unto the Lord. And so the principle must be set forward: our actions, public or private, must reflect that which is appropriate for the house of God. Then, of course, the question arises for those with fewer convictions: how can one accurately represent the house of God when he associates with, compromises with, and dresses like the world with its desire to manipulate, not only the spiritual aspects, but the physical aspects God has given to each one? We must be holy! We must be separate! And even in our private lives, what we read, what we look up on the internet, the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, the texts we send – are these things done as if in the presence of the Most High? Whether good or bad, they are done in His presence.
Thirdly, notice that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (both Old and New Testaments), of which Christ is the Cornerstone. In other words, without the person of Christ, the whole of Scripture falls completely apart. “And why,” you may ask, “is this so important?” It is actually vital, for this speaks to us of the importance of Scripture in our daily lives. How? Consider this: “Unto you therefore who believe, He is precious.” Our hearts should be warmed by every thought of Him. Our worship should abound when we take time to stand in awe at His cross work. He should be everything to us! And if He is the theme of Scripture, the very Foundation of it, truly it should be precious to us also. Without God’s Word, we miss out on our appreciation of Christ (which is also why Scriptural sufficiency is of great importance). And therefore, the question for us as individual members of the Body of Christ is this: do we take the Word of God seriously? It is our privilege to do so. It is our responsibility to do so. May we then do so!
The Local Church
On the local level of Christian fellowship, we see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Now, much more could be said on the local assembly, but we must refrain and focus on the truths we have solely in our passage regarding the Foundation. We will first note the importance/substance/uniqueness of each assembly’s foundation. Then we will note the work of building on the foundation. Then we will note the Judgement Seat of Christ regarding the assembly.
Firstly, the Foundation of each assembly. Note first of all its importance: without a foundation, a structure collapses, and the assembly likewise without a clear understanding of what it is built upon will not last. And so, the focus must be on the substance of the Foundation, which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Everything we do must spring from a submission to His Lordship, whether it be in the Breaking of Bread, in baptism, carrying out Headship, etc. And really, only can an assembly be true when it is built upon His Foundation, for as Paul could say “No other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This speaks to us of the uniqueness of our Foundation. Truly no assembly will be furthered that does not have the gospel at its core. We must remember our Cornerstone, lest in pride and independence we fall.
But of course we can claim to have Christ as our Foundation, while not taking heed of how we build thereupon. In the assembly, we have the precious privilege of building fruit for Christ on the very basis of His Person. Why would one ever want to leave the assembly, mildly support it, neglect participation wilfully, or cause division in it because of pride? These are always detrimental. We must remember that assembly fellowship assumes both privileges and responsibilities. It’s not about what we can get from God’s people, but what we can give – a mindset we should strive to have. Let us not only claim the right foundation (doctrinally), but let’s act upon it (practically). These things go hand in hand. We must build upon our Foundation, taking heed.
And really, all of this is to be done in anticipation of the Judgement Seat, When will that be? It will be when the Lord comes. When is that? We don’t know. It could be today! Every day we are closer to receiving the reward for our labours. How well are we preparing? What treasure are we laying up in Heaven? Are we building actively and in godliness? What we build into God’s assembly will be judged. Sad reality for those who have divided God’s people. Imagine the potential rewards lost. Sad reality for those who began well yet finished in fruitlessness. May we be faithful to the end: faithfulness merits reward.
But briefly, we must notice the Headship of Christ in that He is the “Head of the corner.” Headship actually has two aspects: the universal church and the local church. In the universal church, Ephesians 5 shed light upon how it is to be displayed: with husbands and wives. Husbands are to love and nurture their wife as provider, even as Christ gave everything for His Bride over which He is now Head. In response, the wife is to submit to the husband, because he is the head of the home. And so, as individual members of the Bride of Christ, because He is the Head of the Corner, we must treat Him as such and do exactly what we are called upon to do: submit. The husband doesn’t force submission of the wife, nor does the wife force love from the husband. They complement each other perfectly as each willingly fulfils his/her role. The same is with Christ. And the question is: Am I submitting to or rejecting His Will? Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Broken relationships that need mending? A Bible that needs reading?
And in the local church, too, Headship is seen through the submission of the sisters (according to 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2) and the public responsibilities of the brethren – all working together to build Godliness into the local assembly for the sake of Christ. Sadly, much “building” has been compromised with culture within many many professing Christian circles. Let us never lose sight of properly elevating the person of Christ to His glorious position of preeminence, in our individual lives or even collectively in the assembly. Let us not give preeminence unto any man or woman, but unto Christ alone.
What Does Christ Mean to You?
And now, we come to the close of these papers on the Lord Jesus Christ and His position as Foundation laid in Zion. It is acknowledged that the subjects dealt with may have gone slightly outside our text; nevertheless, the subjects considered are vital to grasp if we are to understand this passage of Isaiah 28:16, which is quoted from or alluded to several times in numerous other references. But now, it is appropriate to consider finally in a practical way what the Lord Jesus means to each one of us individually. Truly, it is only a question which we ourselves can answer in our own hearts. To aid in this endeavour, we will look at (1) what His Person means, (2) what the cross means, and (3) what our salvation means.
Firstly, we come to His Person, and rightly so; for all Christ is never changes. We can read in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” His roles change perhaps, but never His Person. We will look at both.
His roles include: prophet, priest, and King (among others). Consider Him as prophet, the lowly servant of Jehovah, as we can see Him pleading with the people to heed the Word of God. We know that His words were, in fact, words of God (being God Himself), for He could say “But my words shall not pass away.” Yet with such words of power, he could also say “The foxes have their holes, and the birds have their nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” Is that not precious to you? Consider Him as Priest, the Great High Priest after the never-ending order of Melchizedek. While the Accuser roars, our Advocate intercedes for us, makes us “accepted in the Beloved” to come boldly before the Throne of Grace to obtain mercy in the time of need. And only through suffering was He able to be a truly sympathetic High Priest for our sakes. Is that not precious to you? Consider Him as King, the glorious and preeminent One destined to rule the people in the great Millennial Kingdom in Whom we also have an inheritance to reign. He is the glorious Victor, Whom God has glorified rightfully to be King and one day cast down the Usurper, the Devil, and sit upon Jerusalem’s throne as He reigns gloriously with us, even Gentiles, by His side. We will even reign over angels. Is that not precious to you?
But though we may lose sight of His roles and what privileges we have in Him, let us never lose sight of praising Him even just for Who He is! He is the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world – rejoice! He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – rejoice! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End – rejoice! He is the Lion, the Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness, the King, the Son of God – for His glory, rejoice! Yet He is the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and in a manger, the carpenter’s Son, the One out of Nazareth, the Servant, the Sin-bearer, the One numbered with transgressors – for His humility, is there not cause to rejoice? How much does His Person mean to you? Do you display it in how much like Him you are? You do.
Secondly, we come to the cross. Think for a moment of Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha, and the grave.
Consider Gethsemane. Consider His prayer which in essence was “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me.” O the terrors of what lay ahead! Consider His agony displayed in sweat “as it were, great drops of blood.” O the anticipation of Calvary! Consider His strong crying and tears that were unto Him Who was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared. O the eyes of the Saviour that wept so oft’ for me, yet now were for Him! Do those tears mean nothing to you? They were shed for you! Consider Gethsemane.
But also consider Gabbatha, for it was there where “reviled, He reviled not again.” It was there He was presented as King and yet rejected as if a worthless criminal: “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” It was there the Judge of the world was put on trial as it were, unduly condemned by sinful man. It was there mere sinful man was placed above the Lord Jesus as the people cries “We have no King but Caesar!” O the shame! O the spitting! O the scourge! Consider Gabbatha.
Golgotha – who can consider it enough? Who can exhaust its precious meaning? As the hymn-writer could say “Lord Jesus Thou and none beside its bitterness could know.” O that we could understand it more! Consider the place: “He bearing His cross went forth into a place… Golgotha.” It was the place of a skull – the emblem of death. It was the place where God would bind His Son to the altar as it were and lay Him upon it. It was the place “nigh to the city,” yes, even nigh to the city over which His right was to rule. Consider the pain: “He was crucified…” Nails through His hands and His feet. Back ripped open – leaning upon an old rugged cross. Thorns wreathed His brow. Consider the mockery: “Himself He cannot save.” But more than all – consider the darkness! As Abraham lifted his knife to slay the ram, so Jehovah’s sword awoke to smite the Shepherd – even the Good Shepherd, the tender Shepherd. And O those dark and dreadful hours! Hours which no man could see, for “His visage was so marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men.” Hours of perishing alone: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me? I cry in the day time, but Thou hearest not, and in the night season am not silent.” Hours of judgement, as Jehovah took the wrath for sin and unleashed is full fury upon His precious soul – even until the last dark drop of that cup of wrath was drunk. Our debt is now paid in full. IT…IS…FINISHED! And at no small price is it so.
Consider the grave. He bowed His head, dismissed His spirit, and was buried… the end? By no means. O thank God by no means – He’s risen! No more pain; no more darkness. Thank God no more darkness! He’s risen, and don’t doubt it for a second.
Thirdly, consider what our salvation means. We could look at its aspects of justification, sanctification, etc. But all the blessings of salvation can be summed up in one Name: Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Heaven – a blessing indeed – yet worthless without Him. Joy – truly abundant – yet found only in Him. Peace? In Him. Assurance? In Him. But best of all, we can say “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine!” Do we need to go farther than where we have gone? Are not all joys, all abundance found in HIM? Indeed. He truly is the Author of our faith (we begin at Him), and He is truly the Finisher also (we end at Him). All eternity revolves around this glorious Person. And so, we shall end our studies with this: WHAT DOES HE MEAN TO YOU? Glorious Person indeed!