Chapter 2: The Rock Foundation
Therefore whosever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. Jesus
In the relatively recent history of the United States there have been several programs offered by both the state and federal government which authorized citizens to stake claims. The California Gold Rush of 1849, the Homestead Act of 1862, and the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 are a few examples. Claim staking required the Claimer to define the boundaries of their property, whether it was 160 acre tracts in the Homestead Act, or by wooden posts or stone cairns marking boundaries in the Gold Rush, or racing in as they did in 1889 into the recently opened acres of the “Indian Lands”. Staking a claim meant staking your future. Whether it was the hope of gold, the hope of productive farmland, or simply a place to be free, the claim represented the foundational beginning of what an individual hoped to achieve. The boundaries clarified where they would focus their labor, and their labor would determine the success of their venture.
However, there is one other factor that affects potential success and that is uncontrollable outside forces. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus refers to these pressures as rain, floods, and winds. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Mt.7:24-27). Jesus taught that the rock foundation is the application of his teachings to our lives. We have to dig down, and the wise man is the one who keeps digging until he has found the rock. If we have built upon the rock, then our life can withstand the test of the uncontrollable outside forces, described by Jesus as the wind, rain, and the floods. Using the same illustration Jesus compared the wise man to the foolish man. The foolish man is the one that builds on the sand, and when the same outside pressures are applied: the wind, rains and floods; the home comes crashing down. The wise man is the one who chooses to build on the solid rock foundation. Our foundation must be on the rock of Truth.
In the event that the uncontrollable outside forces result in destruction, the conclusion we must draw is that our judgement failed. If our foundation crumbles then everything we have built, no matter how magnificent, also falls to the ground. On a social level this event destroys nations and on an individual level it destroys people. This begs the question, how do we evaluate our foundation? Often times we are unaware that we have built on the sand until an event comes that reveals the strength of our foundation. On an individual level we accept this as ‘experience’ from which we hope to learn. A proverb of Solomon states: a just man falls seven times and rises up again (Prov.24:16). Falling down and rebuilding is part of the maturing process; however, it is only the foolish man that continues to rebuild on the sand.
A foundation provides stability, strength, value, and judgement for life. The solid rock foundation is a metaphor for Truth. Truth is eternal, it is unchanging, and it is solid. Sand shifts. Depending on the environment it can be solid, it can be soft, or liquified. The sand is a metaphor for human reason. At times it appears solid. At times it presents itself as a softer, more appealing truth. And other times it is deceitful and sucks its victims in before they realize what is happening, like quicksand. People that live around quicksand are warned that if they find themselves in quicksand they should not struggle. Struggling in quicksand will cause the trapped person to sink even faster. That is an accurate description of what happens when we become entangled with the deceit of our human reason. If we try to fight against deceit, by holding on to some part of what we felt was true, that deceit will cause us to sink even faster. The only solution is to accept defeat, own our failure, and not struggle to prove we were right.
Sand appeals to our nature because it is a product of our nature. In this illustration sand is a product of our human reason. Truth, like a rock, seems cold, dead, and hard, without feeling or mercy. Truth, however, is a living stone. Truth is embodied in the Spirit of God. Consequently, Truth, although eternal, is always current, is always applicable, and is manifested in mercy. To have Truth as our rock foundation requires a living relationship with the Spirit of Truth.
Cornerstone and Capstone
Truth is the cornerstone of the foundation. Isaiah, one of the writers in the Old Testament, explained the nature of God as a sanctuary for those who feared him. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Is.8:13-14). The context of Isaiah’s message was a call to repentance for the children of Israel. They had failed to honor their covenant with God. When Isaiah referred to the Lord as a rock of offense and a stumbling stone, the message was directed towards those of a disobedient spirit. The children of Israel had been shown Truth, but at this point in time, most of the kingdom had rejected God.
Each of us, in our own experience, remember the experiences that caused us to stumble and fall. There comes a time in our life when we faced an experience that we felt like we could handle, and the next thing we remember, we were down on the ground looking up, wondering, What happened? We stumbled. We tripped over a reality that we did not understand. Those are the experiences that can introduce us to Truth. When we fail it will hopefully leave us feeling both needy and reflective. What tripped me up? Why did I not see that coming? This is a necessary condition of spirit to reach before we become willing to be taught. The moment when we recognize that we do not have all the answers, that moment can be the beginning of our personal search for the rock of Truth. Truth, in that way, is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. The stumbling can put us in the right condition and it can point us in the right direction.
The cornerstone of the rock foundation is Truth. Both Peter and Paul, apostles and authors of epistles in the New Testament, made reference to the message from Isaiah regarding the stone of stumbling and rock of offense. Paul in his letter to the Romans explained the difference between the Gentiles and Jews as it related to this rock of Truth. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; as it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Rom.9:30-33). The problem, which Paul pointed out, is that the Israelites had failed to embody Truth.
The Israelites believed that their social structure, which was guided by a law of righteousness, was sufficient. However, when Truth revealed itself in the form of a man, Jesus, it caused them to stumble. The Gentiles who had sought Truth, sought it with the purpose that it would be the foundation of their lives. Paul explained that as: seeking Truth by faith. The faith of the Gentiles led them to the rock, the Spirit of Truth, and they embraced it.
In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul wrote: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens 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 cornerstone (Eph.2:19-20). Paul’s explanation clarifies that all who dig down, and find the rock of Truth, share a common foundation. Our individual experiences can lead each of us to the same rock, if we allow the “stumbling” experiences in life, to motivate us to take hold of the shovel and dig down to the rock.
Peter in his first epistle also referenced the cornerstone. Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he’s is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; where unto also they were appointed (I.Pet.2:6-8). Peter’s explanation focuses on the reason why we stumble on the rock of Truth. It is because of disobedience.
Truth requires that we obey it if it is to be the cornerstone of our life. The cornerstone is the first stone placed in the foundation. The cornerstone is used as the reference point to make the foundation square. A life that is aligned by the cornerstone of Truth indicates that every aspect of that life is in line with Truth. However, if we fail to accept the Truth, when we come upon it, then it will cause us to stumble and it will be a rock of offense.
When Jesus spoke about the rock he quoted he 118th psalm: Did ye never read the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Mt.21:42-44). In this reference the stone is also the head cornerstone, or the capstone. The capstone is the final stone which is set in place, capping the project. Truth is both the cornerstone and the capstone, it is the beginning and ending, the bookends of a just life. If we build on the rock then everything that we build is founded in Truth and capped by Truth.
The choice is ours to make when we encounter Truth: Will we fall on it? Will we allow our nature to be broken by Truth? If we are broken by Truth then we can build on the solid rock. However, we can choose to reject Truth. When we come upon Truth it will cause us to stumble because it is by design a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. Truth will cause us to offend ourselves because it reveals the falsity and hypocrisy that is inherent within our nature. If we choose to reject Truth, Jesus taught that Truth will come crushing down upon us and grind us to powder. Ignoring the Truth will lead to our destruction.
Jesus taught that those who choose Truth, those who choose to fall on the rock and be broken by it, will then be made part of a body that produces the fruit thereof. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth fruits thereof (Mt.21:43). Jesus’ comparison of a nation, a body of people that are united by the same foundation of Truth, could be seen as an invitation. This is a nation that is available to anyone. Jesus describes this as the entrance to the kingdom of heaven. The cornerstone and capstone of Truth results in a life that is founded and sealed by Truth.
Laying the Foundation
In the letter to the Hebrews, Paul identifies six principles of the rock foundation: Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement (Heb.6:1-2). As mentioned previously, Jesus is the chief cornerstone, the embodiment of Truth, and combined with that are six other principles that make up a foundation of Truth. The six principles could be described in the following manner:
- Repentance from dead works: The rejection of falsity in our life.
- Faith toward God: Belief in an eternal Truth
- The doctrine of baptisms: Forgiveness of our failures combined with a new beginning
- Laying on of hands: Order
- Resurrection of the dead: Hope
- Eternal judgement: Accountability
These principals outline what we learn through the experience of digging down to the rock. Each shovel full of sand that we remove is instructive. It is a reminder that sand is not a material on which we can build. This is the process of repentance, recognizing what is false and removing it from our life.
This same process, of digging down to the rock, teaches us again and again, shovel full after shovel full, that we cannot rely solely on our human reason. We are searching for something that is true, something solid, something that is eternal and unchanging.
Belief that Truth exists requires a quality beyond human reason. In this same epistle to the Hebrews, in the 11th chapter, the topic of faith is discussed. The chapter begins by explaining that: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb.11:1). Faith is both a substance and evidence, it is solid and it is a defense. Faith can be felt and it can be demonstrated by the life we live. Faith is more than belief. Faith is our evidence when we have sufficient knowledge and experience to recognize that we believe in something that is beyond human reason. Faith in God, in the Spirit of Truth, is part of the solid rock foundation.
The same process of digging down to the rock reveals to us our past failures, demonstrating our need for forgiveness and a new start. We dig through the experiences in our past, the times when we placed our confidence in the shifting sands, and we come face to face with our failures. Going through the effort of shoveling through our failures, teaches us our need for forgiveness. The need to forgive ourselves, forgive others, and to be forgiven. Combined with that comes the desire for a new beginning. This same process teaches us that we cannot dwell in the past, focusing on our failures, but that we need to go forward. We need to build on the rock. This process helps us lay the rest of our foundation, aligning each new experience with the cornerstone of Truth.
The same process of digging down, searching for the rock, teaches us that there is order in Truth. The principal of the laying on of hands, in the scripture, represents the transferral of authority, power or blessing. The physical practice was merely an outward expression to symbolize the transfer. This principal, in everyday language, indicates a hierarchy, order, and structure. When we align our life with the cornerstone of Truth, we learn that Truth has order and structure. In part, the very process that we must go through instills that lesson in us. We are not endowed with Truth, we have to search for it. There is effort required on our part. The illustration used by Jesus said, those who build on the rock, those are the ones whose house will stand. There is an order and there is a hierarchy. The hierarchy is represented by the cornerstone and the capstone. Everything we are must align to the cornerstone of Truth. In this context, the cornerstone has the authority. The capstone, as we previously discussed, is also Truth. It is the final stone that is set in place. It concludes the project. In order to have a life that is aligned and sealed by Truth, we must acknowledge that Truth has authority over our life.
The last two principles, Hope and Accountability, are purely spiritual elements of the solid rock foundation. They both deal with the eternal realm of life. The hope that is spoken of in the New Testament is directly tied to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The reason that anyone would be willing for this process, the process of digging through all their own reason, their faults and failures in search of the solid foundation, is for the hope of something better. We hope for something better, something real, something true.
Even though eternal life is an idea that is very difficult to understand, there are some experiences in life that help us to understand it in part. One example is found in the shared experience of searching for answers. When we align our life with Truth, the answers to our questions will be the same answers for all who ask similar questions. The same counsel that Solomon gave his son, close to three thousand years ago, is still true for us today. Truth unites us across time. Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, states: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens 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 cornerstone; 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 (Eph.2:19-22). Paul explains that unity is a consequence of building on the rock. Paul describes it as a holy temple fitly framed together that forms a dwelling place for the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of Truth. Each person(soul) that has submitted to the process of digging down to the rock, becomes a building block in this holy temple. The idea of being united with people, without the restriction of time, is something that we can understand. We experience that now. When we find answers to a current problem in scripture we feel united with the author. When the wisdom of our parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, or a friend comes to mind after they have died, we feel reunited with them in memory. That is a natural way that eternal life can be understood, and that gives us Hope.
The final principal of eternal judgement teaches us about accountability. Accountability is a foundational Truth, because without it there is a complete lack of motivation. There must be an understanding that our behavior will be evaluated, and that the evaluation has personal consequences. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, writes: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal.6:7). We know this is true, because we each have experienced it. This is more commonly expressed as, actions have consequences. It is unavoidable. If our house falls because we have built on the sand, we are accountable. Each of us are accountable for our decisions. Accountability establishes the reality of our belief system.
These six principles align with the cornerstone of Truth and they each contribute to the rock foundation.
The Storms Reveal Our Foundation
Truth as our foundation also becomes the basis of our judgement. Constructing a life, just like constructing a home, requires building material. Laying the foundation is the first step in a multi- step process. We build our life, first by digging down to the rock, and then brick by brick we begin to construct. Once the walls and roof are in place and the structure is dried in, we begin to work on the interior. We divide our life into rooms, each room developing its own ambience. Then periodically we reflect on our ever progressing work. Our life becomes more than mere existence as it takes on flavor and style. Then a storm comes our way. The rains begin and do not cease, and we find ourself in a flood. The winds begin to pound against the structure of our life. The storms in life compel us to focus our attention on our foundation. The storm attacks the foundation and reveals whether it is stone or sand. The future of all that we have built depends upon the foundation. The rock foundation means that we have chosen to build on Truth. Those who build on the Sand have placed their confidence in human reason. Jesus said about those who build on the sand, that the house will fall and “great will be the fall of it.”
In the writings of Solomon we find this thought: Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?(Eccl. 7:13). Sand is made of rock fragments but that does not make it solid. Half truths are the shifting sands, they are the unsure foundation, and they lead to destruction. Sand, borrowing Solomon’s words, was made crooked by God, consequently it cannot be made straight by men. If we have built on the sand then we must accept in the aftermath of the storm that there is nothing here that I can use again. We have to build again. It is not a remodel, it is a new project. The project starts by searching for the rock foundation.
If we have chosen to build on the sand then our foundation will reveal itself during the storm. It is a tragedy when the foundation gives way. Another tragedy is when we realize that the material that we used to build our life is also destructible.
Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, 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 (I Cor.3:12-15). In this illustration the fire is comparable to the trials that we face in our lives. The trials in life reveal the integrity of our character, and they expose our judgement. What kind of material did we choose? Is it wood, hay, or stubble? Material that will be consumed by the fire. Or is it gold, silver and precious stones? Materials that only become refined by the fire. Paul explains that we can be on the rock foundation and still lose all that we have built. The question then becomes, what happened to the wisdom that led us to the rock? If we neglect the wisdom that led us to the rock, our judgment can revert to choosing wood, hay and stubble. The fire proves the life, and even if what we have constructed is consumed, the foundation remains if we have built upon the rock.
There is also the potential problem of choosing not to build after we have laid the foundation. Jesus outlined that problem with a parable: For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Lk.14:28). The reason that we are searching for a solid foundation is because we want to build on it. Finding the rock foundation is the first step in building a life that can withstand the storms. The process of finding the rock, and then building on it, could be best described as our relationship with Truth. If we fail to proceed beyond the foundation then our relationship with Truth dies. As Paul cautioned in the letter to the Hebrews, we do not want to continually relay our foundation, but go on unto perfection (Heb.6:1).
In the epistle written by James we find this explanation of works of faith: Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (by itself). Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works…But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?… Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?…Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only….For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:17-18; 20; 22; 24; 26). James’ explanation of faith and works, when applied to this topic, indicate that searching for the rock and building on the rock are both ‘works of faith’. It is by faith that we are led to the rock foundation, and it is through faith that we build on the rock. If we choose to stop building then our faith and our relationship with Truth, ceases. Our life then becomes a subject of mockery by the critical. Jesus referred to that as failing to count the cost. There is a cost associated with building on the rock, but the benefit is that we are building a life that can withstand the storms.
David of the Old Testament was a man after God’s own heart. David was a gifted psalmist. David could express through words the feeling of what it means to be given a solid foundation. In the 27th Psalm David wrote about the rock foundation, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock (Ps.27:1-5). David expressed in this psalm the comfort that comes when we choose to build on the rock foundation.
David was a man of war, and he spent the majority of his reign as King fighting, defending the kingdom from external and internal threats. In this particular Psalm David references the importance of the rock foundation when we are facing enemies. David had a God that shed light on his path, a God that strengthened him, and that was security for him. David was able to say, whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? David could see his enemies for what they were, and that vision strengthened him. The clarity of vision was the ability to see the Truth. The Truth was both a strength and a shield to him. David expressed that by his desire to never depart from the house of the Lord, he desired to be hid in the tabernacle, and to have his feet on the rock.
In the 40th Psalm David again expressed the feeling of being placed on the rock. I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon the rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies (Ps.40:1-4). When David wrote a psalm, it was a personal expressions of his experience. In David’s writings we see the outline of the process by which Truth enters our life and establishes our goings.
In a spiritual setting testimonies have validity. Individual experiences which reshape your life are validated by the change that they have produced. When we hear or read a testimony, the story of a person’s experience, factual disputation is set to one side. The testimony is judged by the hearer on its merits, which predominantly focuses on the life example of the one sharing their story, and their life’s alignment to the principle of Truth. The individual experiences of having our “feet in miry clay” would differ in context, but the sentiment is a shared experience. The individual experience of having our “feet set upon a rock” would also be similar, because those who search for the rock foundation are all set upon the same rock of Truth. Those that listen to a testimony are free to accept or reject the testimony of the individual, but that does not dispute the truth of their experience.
A common argument against this type of explanation is that Truth must be relative. If everyone’s own experience is valid, then each person can have their version of Truth. On first evaluation this sounds like a legitimate criticism; however, what this argument actually supports is what we have previously discussed about building on the sand. In this context, the testimony is the building, but the foundation is what is in question. Jesus said that Truth is revealed by the storms: the winds, the rain, and the flood. The storm will reveal if the testimony in question is founded on the rock. If it stands then it is founded in Truth. If it fails then it is founded on human reason.
The uncontrollable outside forces will prove the integrity of our foundation in life. The rain, winds, and floods will come and they will beat on the structure of our life. It all comes back to the foundation, is it the solid rock or is it the shifting sands? Have we built our life on Truth or on human reason? One will stand and the other will fall. It is ‘essential’ to build on the rock.
The purpose of this www.thefellowshipoftruth.com is to provide information about a non-denominational network of home-based churches that can be found in nearly every country of the world. We are imperfect people trying hard to fulfil the plan that God has laid out for each one of us. We do our best to follow the teachings of the Bible at home, work and in the place of worship. The format and structure are Bible based and very similar to what we read about the early church in Acts and I Corinthians (Acts 1:13 and I Cor 16:19.) Each week we meet in homes for fellowship and worship on Sunday mornings and Bible studies on Wednesday nights. From time to time, we also have larger Gospel services where multiple home-based churches meet together. These meetings serve to strengthen the faith of the believers, and also, help to explain our beliefs to those who are being introduced to our faith for the first time.