THE AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH April 14 ..., 2013
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
I Corinthians 3:10-11, Zephaniah 2
NO OTHER FOUNDATION
PLAY THE FOOL WITH FOUNDATIONS
There is the foundation: in anything. Atoms need space; both need grounding and correlation; air needs content and sphere of operation, thought needs logic, imagination needs differentiation from reality, and the knowledge of reality needs God, since without the absolute, the relative is merely operational, not explanatory or assessable past occurrence.
Personality needs foundation, for otherwise, it is a kind of blind thrust, like a fountain which forgot to have ground, and was trying to thrust itself into the air, moving backwards as it tried.
Man needs foundation in God, and God has provided this with exemplary simplicity of style, in the man, Jesus Christ, the formatted incarnation of His eternal Word. This prodigious action if ignored, leaves man with all the identity crisis, for individual, business and nation, which leads to uncontrolled vice, viciousness, conflict, murders, massacres and other consignments of force.
"No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid," the same continuing on without change (Acts 4:11-12).
The Greek in I Corinthians 3 is interesting. First Paul indicates (using the perfect tense in 3:10, that of completion), that he has laid the foundation. It is all there. Then in the next verse, 11, we learn that no other foundation can be laid than the one set, settling, reposing, reclining, just BEING THERE. It is the same Greek word used in I Thessalonians 3:3.
In this, Paul is pursuing the theme of the work done by missionary pastor Timothy, "to encourage and establish you concerning your faith." He is concerned that they should not be SHAKEN by afflictions, because "your yourselves know that we are appointed to this." "Appointed" is the translation here of the very word used in I Cor. 3:11, where it is rendered "is laid." It is a term signifying a CONTINUING emplacement, a reposing certainty: it refers to something that has been built, unprocessive, unprogressive.
Indeed, in John 20, we find multiple references to the same word as in I Cor. 3, here even in the same grammatical form (the present participle), though plural and not singular in this case. John there sees the linen clothes, LYING there. It is a fait accompli, a standing item of evidence, a testimony placed, an irrevocable fact following an irreplaceable act. They just sit there, action past, evidence present.
Power, precision, prediction alike attest it, and John believed at once, the thing settled forever in his soul, even before the meetings with Jesus in the upper room, then in Galilee as in such other sites as were convenient in the 40 days, as He taught them about what concerned the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). The clothes sat there, Christ arose, and the foundation was laid, appointed, emplaced, a living wonder of the power of God over the grave.
Hence from these verses, and the use of both terms by the apostle, the perfect and the present of the same word, you get the dual emphasis from Paul: he HAS LAID down the foundation, and all is now ready for superstructure. Christ IS the foundation; Paul laid it down before their eyes and ears, as final, established and irrevocable. Firstly, then, as to that work of Christ, it is done (Hebrews 9:12). The specifications are there, complete. Secondly, not only has it been DONE (I Cor. 3:10) already, but it simply rests there (3:11), arresting attention, a monument to observe, a construction complete. In this verse it appears like a well-known building, going on being itself, unchanged, notable, an accepted presence continually. Indeed, that is precisely what Paul declares in Galatians 1, where the curse of God is announced and pronounced for any who would alter it, and so proceed as frauds, with that fateful task!
You cannot remake it, renew it, improve it; you CAN build on it, but the superstructure needs to be harmonious with the foundation, to relate as such to what underlies, what holds, what contains. What you build can be tradition or application. If tradition, then you face Mark 7:7ff.. Tradition is a kindly old servant IF IT SERVES, but a ghastly incubus if it tries to seep down to the foundation.
You can found yourself, as some classification systems do, on CULTURE, and subordinate God and everything else to it, as if man made God and needed no making himself, being a child of nothing at all. Then you can make religion a cultural thing. One firm of classifiers in this country does this. and another elsewhere, something similar. Thus, instead of theology, Christian education, biblical apologetics, as terms in their own right, if they come at all, they come as subordinates to human construction. They are under the classification SOCIAL!
In this way, man makes himself the source. Imagine a mosquito doing this: he would maintain that his massively intricate equipment making him a bundle of directed menace, arrived free and postage paid from nowhere.
But this very simply does not happen. Find it and be the greatest explorer of all time on this earth! but it does not happen. It is not seen. It is not to be found. For ANY work, the truth remains, you need foundation. It is not enough to have energy, you need its direction, protection, mandate, manufacturing equipment, rationale.
A foundation in air, water, fire, atoms, change, immutability, whatever - the Greeks tried all of these to no effect, since all required a system in which to inhere, to which to relate and through which to act - is as useless as one imagined in natural processes of ANY kind. They all require just the same, from the institution of the totality at the first, to the maintenance of its laws to the last.
Thus foundation in what a society itself merely WANTS is mere wantonness; for wants, single or group, may vary from blowing everybody up, through killing some nation (such as Israel, courtesy of Iran), to various lusts which de-regulate equipment, and slowly destroy the soul, till man in his potential, is left a relic to drugs, desire, lust or self-will.
The foundation for man is his Maker; and the foundation provided BY Him, for this purpose, is His only begotten Son, and the obvious ground for this is in what He is and what He did; and what He did underlies any hope of pardon or spiritual power or unity for man, namely provide a cancellation sacrifice of Himself, that the repentant and the receptive might live forever (cf. II Corinthians 5:17ff.).
That's all there is. There is no logical ground for anything else, nothing testable, nothing validated and verified, let alone anything with the PERSON of the very TRINITY in person coming to illustrate, demonstrate and to save (cf. Isaiah 48:15ff., John 1-3).
What however if you INSIST on some other foundation anyway? why
then, as if you were on unaligned tyres, you wear, and being warped, you grind
away, resistant to progress, providing stress and strain. If tyres could elect
this, they would be like the faithless
man or woman, and as worn out.
PAY THE PRICE FOR WRONG ONES
Now we turn to a tremendous NEGATIVE illustration. It is found in Zephaniah. Here we take especially verses 4-11 of Ch. 1. This spreads before the eye, a carefully itemised list of how the spirit of rejection of spiritual life applied to a nation. The Maker, like manufacturer, has certain results in store; or like a doctor, a certain prognosis. THE FOUNDATION-FREE now find the cost of corruption, and the result of unreason, perfidious to their Maker. Indeed, they have ignored in this case, they have moved their hearts far from Him, and His mercy and His plan of salvation.
Before visiting this devastating scene, let us start just beyond it, for there you see a flare like a vapour trail in the sky. God tells the nation not desired, "And it will come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem, with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency; who say in their heart, the LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil."
What is this derogative drivel! They are treating God like an idle idol, though He created their very selves. Just as Pinnochio's nose grew longer as he lied, so their guilt grows deeper as they lie prostate before the wall of truth, and refuse to look at it. These are the cheeky students who imagine that the response to their massive gifts received, is irresponsibility, that the gratitude for them is mockery, and that their powers which even as they speak, they use, are provided free of charge for lampooning their Lord and misusing voice and heart and conscience to assert themselves, like ants imagining they are elephants.
Let us now travel to the BEGINNING of this second Chapter of Zephaniah, before the itemisation, as the divine comments just reviewed, come after it. "Gather yourselves together, yes gather together, O undesirable nation, before the day passes like chaff, before the LORD'S fierce anger comes upon you." The undesirable nation is one "not to be yearned for, sought after". What bathos is here! It reminds one of the King Jehoram of Judah, who departed this life, not being desired! After all, had he not had an exceptionally fine father (Jehoshaphat), and did he not kill his brothers, whom his father had made wealthy, and did he not receive an amazing letter from Elijah the prophet, advising of the payment to be received for following in the ways of the despicable Ahab of Israel (to the North of Judah), and this ? it included for him the prediction of an intestinal disease to come for him, to be capped by his intestines falling out!
Certainly from him, there had been no bowels of compassion, but rather the ruthlessness of a demented ruler! So now in Zephaniah, it is a nation not to be yearned after, where love finds no access, no recess for repository, no room for its care. So utter had been the appalling double-dealing of ancient Israel the nation that the Lord decided to "utterly consume everything"! as in a bonfire, but this a woe-fire.
What is it like ? It is like dancing on the deck in the maritime splendour of a vast cruise, having paid $100 for the hilarious event, and then finding a fine for being there, and it is this: you pay everything, for the boat is about to go down, and with it your only will, and your only child. The cost is everything. Judgment is like that. It has, in and by itself, no mercy. It is not a thing to be desired, or to be yearned after at all, for man is made for mercy as the sky for rain, or the deep for water.
Without it, it is like playing tennis on some afternoon, just before a heart-attack, when serving at advantage. There is no advantage left, with the cost set at all, everything. In man's case, without having the "desire of the nations," the mercy of God in Christ, it is all undesirable (Haggai 2:7), and the resultant is this: an undesirable nation, lurching from violation to vitiation, so that while the perfect is flawless, this has no floor, base or meaning beyond the calamitous clash with truth.
Again, before we proceed with the dreadful itemisation of the scope of the judgment, let us reflect that there is a similar quest, zest in compassion, even to tears, to mourning as in Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., even in the face of the at last irrevocable judgment, despite many prophets, much appeal, and in Christ mighty works, if by any means any might believe. Some did, and much mercy was so shown, and not until God as man suffered for and as man the sheer horror of unrelieved death in an ecstasy of anguish, does the negative result obtain, like Hiroshima, at last rendered ruin because of the impervious aggression that preceded it. It is time for pity for those who wilfully expose themselves to the radiation of sin, if by any means the Gospel might not reach them, and the mercies of God not attain to them. In their spiritual self-assurance, they forget entirely that nothing not insured by God, has a place in grace, and that without grace, there is only disgrace.
How great then is the grandeur of grace that it makes ALL the difference, God having in Christ used practical hand and foot to meet man where he is, so to supply in liberty, for love, all that heart could desire (Psalm 373-4): for by grace you have been saved, says Paul, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Indeed, literally, for the Christian, Paul is used to reveal that it is by grace you are having been saved people. To think what we have to thank God for - a totality in truth of triumph over sin, judgment and death, for the sake of abundant life. Rejoice always: and why not! It is only fitting.
THE FASHIONING OF JUDGMENT
We were looking at the vast doom at last announced through Zephaniah the prophet. We had noted that to be foundation-free is to be utterly bound, blighted in the boundless. Then this negative was glanced at in its positive setting, that is, in terms of the reality from which it was an estrangement. Now we come to consequences of that estrangement, in the case of Judah. Had they not had both Hezekiah as King, a wonder of wide mercy to many, and Josiah as well, an energetic reformer of heart and zest, whom Jeremiah called "the breath of our nostrils" (Lamentations 4:20); and yet they reverted AGAIN, like someone never finished scratching till the skin is raw, and infected!
In the prophet, the deadly list of judgment to come arises like a billowing wave 100 feet tall, crashing with each segment of water with its spray shooting with a vehemence at once stunning and unstoppable. Consider now Zephaniah1:2 ff.. "I will consume" man and beast, birds of the heavens, fish of the sea, idols with idolaters, man from the land." Indeed, the Lord is about to "stretch forth My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
The naturalists, here passing from implicit to actual worshippers of the host of heaven, are to be blotted out together with those who swear by the Lord and ALSO by the idol, two-faced. Watching the spreading the net, we find also the overthrow of "those who have turned back from following the LORD" together with "those who have not sought" nor even "enquired of Him." The scene later moves on, in 3:8ff., towards the finale of international judgment. So does the grand sweep of coming judgment move (as sometimes the scene moves in Revelation) from the immediate to the ultimate. It is as when Rev. 20:11 tells us that before the ultimate throne of judgment, and "Him who sat on it", even from His face " the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them." That is universal. This was for Israel. Either way, dismal is the dislocation, and more so, the removal of a place.
So does the grand sweep of coming judgment move (as sometimes the scene moves in Revelation) from the immediate to the ultimate. It is as when Rev. 20:11 tells us that before the ultimate throne of judgment, and "Him who sat on it", even from His face " the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them." That is universal. This was for Israel. Either way, dismal is the dislocation, and more so, the removal of a place.
Oh to have no place, unlike Daniel who was to move to the lot appointed for him, the Lord telling him, who DID have a place prepared, "But you, go your way till the end, for you shall rest and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days." To have a place when judgment comes like truth unveiled, as when the old and bent frame is suddenly seen in a set of mirrors, and one gasps at the ravages of time; but this, this judgment, is for all time, a judgment without relief or retinue. It is, again, like the case of Matthew 25, when certain of those who have FAILED in this and that work of mercy, have no cover for their omissions (25:45), and some who have done some good things will have no loss. In the one set, every omission counts; in the other, every kindness counts. One is covered; the other discovered!
The case is this: that the redeemed are covered for their losses, and their good is remembered (25:40), while the unredeemed have nothing more than their failures in focus, for they chose "NOT MERCY", and so have no play there. It is not that the redeemed failed or the unredeemed succeeded; not that. It is this: the unredeemed must face every infraction amid an infraction of their very spirits; and the redeemed are remembered for every good thing, since there is a donation of pardon.
Such is the exhaustive litany of judgment in Zephaniah, which touches the finale, but such also is the aroma of mercy in the halls of the adoption, where the remnant, found instead of foundering, now founded through faith in the foundation, finds the spoils of the victory of Christ. Each such one finds what He died for, the salvation IN mercy FOR love which has BEEN received even to the point of redemption (Matthew 20:28), crafted with a greater zest than the original creation, as a mother would move heaven and earth to cover the woes of her child, since it is her own, offspring of love, born of pain, outcome of love.
THE FASHION OF MERCY
Man is figured for the beauty of holiness, and while the loss through sin is absolute and final unless covered, as it simply does not fit in heaven, nor is there haven while it rules in its own domain - yet when the truth is matched with mercy, and becomes a lovely thing in the process, then the case is utterly different. As the LORD declares in Zephaniah 3:17:
not fear Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
As for the remnant of Israel (Isaiah 11:10), convicted and converted (Ezekiel 36), so for the remnant of the Gentiles, in no other condition; for what the Lord dies to cover, and receives under that cover, whether one or many, HE covers. This is done with the same marvellous consistency and conscientiousness to the last detail, that is shown in judgment in its own woeful way, when unalloyed by mercy because of hardness of heart, and this through woeful and wilful misalignment with available truth. There is no need to seek revenge: the Lord has this well under control in terms of truth, not lust! What is remediable, let it be remedied (cf. Revelation 22:17).
Remember Philippians 3:20-21, and ask, With what does the Lord operate to ensure the reconstitution of all things, the resurrection of the body, the restoration of the soul, the destiny of those washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7) ? It is there declared to be through
" the power with which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself,"
and with this same power, He ENDUES, for each of His people here providing the transformation
"of our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body."
THAT glorious project is worthy of the sublime, divine power (II Corinthians 5:1-5, I Corinthians 15:50-54), and it is just like the mercy of our God, that He has this in mind, to do it.
THE PURITY OF DIVINE PURPOSE
The picture of this terminus to the pangs of anguish and the ultimatum to death in anti-corruptive power summoning immortality (II Timothy 1:10), it is to be relished. Listen to this: "The appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light." See it happen! Here is that self-same ardour which drove the Lord to finish the work of redemption by going on to Jerusalem where He KNEW only death awaited Him, because "for this purpose have I come to this hour," (John 12:27).
What hour ? It is one of deep grief and MORTAL suffering for HIM; and to achieve this, He decides NOT to be seeking to be saved from this hour, for this was the crucial purpose of His coming. PURPOSE ? to liberate through death and to redeem through ransom, and personally to BE it, the ransom supplied, so granting eternal life to believers in Him without alloy or addition.
He came as in John 10:10 that they might have life, and have it more abundantly, and to gain this there was death as a stop-over, where work had to be done! That is the fashion of mercy. When it comes to sinners, then the glorious quest is not: SAVE me from my duty, from my responsibility, but no! Save me with the love and mercy that deity displays, to be both received by His regal splendour (Ephesians 1:6) and shown the testimony of truth! What did HE who IS the deity say ? "For this purpose have I come!" Here DEATH due, sublimely covered by death freely given, is ransacked and smitten, so that life divine should win for the lost! Here has been provided a vicarious victory by Christ our Lord. How glorious is this word, this witness, this will, this thrilling work of infinite adventure, meeting death in person on the part of Almighty God. FOR THIS PURPOSE HAVE I COME! To testify of this, to teach His word, to introduce through His Gospel, to the grace of God, we go!
The SPIRIT of what HE did is the salt of what we who are His, must do (Matthew 20:27-28). Surely He knew the result, but so does the Christian know the result, to come in the resurrection of the body, to be with Christ in glory, the Shepherd and the Saviour. But when you have to DO it, then it always has the freshness of impact, be it torment or delight. With Him and for Him, there was torment for truth, so that the truth be not tormented. Here was glory, and here in spirit must we follow, who value the truth above pleasure, pastime and preference. It is good, for God being the Truth, in this we fit with all things good, and for this we can only praise God.