Psalm 118:22 (NIV)
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
What’s your experience with building?
- Couch-cushion forts
- My buddies and I built a kids’ clubhouse
- Built a real house—with walls, floors, windows and a roof
A building can be no better than its foundation. Our play forts and clubhouses lacked sturdy foundations. They weren’t made to last.
I knew a woman who built her own home. Put a marble at one end of the house, and it would gently roll to the other end. She used a square, but not a level. She had a solid house on a faulty foundation.
The words of Samuel Stone’s famous hymn come to mind: “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” Our strong foundation. Solid. Perfect.
We are studying the fifth book of the New Testament, a book with a descriptive title: The Acts of the Apostles (Acts for short): “Apostles” – Christ’s inner circle of 12 disciples—without Judas, who betrayed Jesus and later killed himself. “Acts” – the actions they took after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Let’s be clear. This isn’t the story of a dozen clever carpenters hammering together a house of worship. It is a story of obedient believers who did amazing things through the power of God.
God was building his Church. The people we see in Acts were tools in the hands of the Master Carpenter (“tools,” not in the belittling sense of the word, to be stupidly used by someone else). It was an honor to be a tool used of God. It’s an honor you can share—because God is still building his Church.
The word “Church” can be confusing. We call the building where we worship “the church.” We call the congregation we’re part of “our church.” The Church of this study of Acts is the collection of all people (over time and around the world) who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is their Foundation. They may be shaky, but he is solid.
These lessons–and the many Bible verses they explore—describe a factual history and a symbolic process. That history is done. The process continues.
Open your Bible to Acts 1. That’s the start, right?
Acts was written by man named Luke. He also wrote the third book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke (the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are four different accounts of the life of Christ). Luke’s books were written for his friend, Theophilus:
Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven.
Lucky for us, Theophilus didn’t keep Luke’s messages to himself. Take the time to read the books of Luke and Acts, one after the other, the way Luke wrote them. Pretend that you are his dear friend and that he wrote them just for you.
Friend Luke doesn’t tell us much about himself. He sometimes uses the word “we” when telling about Paul’s ministry. He doesn’t when writing about Jesus. Paul mentions Luke in some of his letters:
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
2 Timothy 4:11
Only Luke is with me.
. . . Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
So we know that Luke was a doctor, he didn’t meet Jesus in person, he worked alongside Paul, and Paul called him “dear friend.” Some historians believe that he was a gentile (non-Jewish). The Apostles, the men who had been with Christ, were all Jewish.
The Old Testament (old “promise”) is the story of God’s pledge to the Jews that they would be his people and he would be their God. The New Testament extends that promise to all people who believe in Jesus as Savior (the Church). How interesting that Luke, who may not have been Jewish himself, was the tool God chose to write this message.
Both the Old and New Testaments teach us that Jesus is the Church’s foundation:
Isaiah 28:16-17 (Old Testament)
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line.”
Jesus is that “precious cornerstone for a sure foundation.”
Psalm 118:22 (Old Testament)
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
Jesus was “rejected”—crucified. The religious and political leaders thought that was the end of him.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (New Testament)
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus isn’t dead. He is our “living Stone,” the Cornerstone of our faith. The building of the Church which began in the book of Acts continues today.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (New Testament)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Jesus is our Cornerstone. And we are being built into the Church, the “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
The work of an expert stonemason is impressive. A wall without mortar, stones perfectly stacked to display their individual beauty and together forming a solid, even, level wall. To me, that’s the image of the Church.
Imagine that some stones are demanding and uncooperative:
“I want to be front and center!”
“I don’t want anyone to see me.”
“I refuse to sit next to HER!”
“Put me beside him, he’s cute.”
“I don’t like this part of the wall, it’s boring.”
“I want to be over there, by the flowers.”
“You can’t make me!”
“I’m outta here.”
If the stonemason lets the stones have their way, the wall will lose its perfection—a bulge here, a sag there. The enemy has an eye for the weak spots and will attack at the points squeezed together (or left empty) by those uncooperative stones.
So here’s the take-away from our first study: Christ is the sure Cornerstone of our spiritual foundation. God is building the Church according to his perfect plan. Our job is to follow instructions. The Acts of the Apostles is our instruction manual.
Just a note: this won’t be a chapter-by-chapter series on the book of Acts. We’ll be looking for take-aways, basic concepts on building the Church today. The Church: the individual (you), our congregation (us) and all believers (them).
We are all one in Christ, one Church built on a solid Foundation.
As you read the book of Acts for yourself, watch for the times that prayer is part of the story. The Church was (and is) built by prayer. Powerful prayer.
Lord, teach me to pray and act like the Apostles prayed and acted.
Thanks to John’s book of Revelation, we know how the story ends: Jesus, the Lamb, claims his Bride, the Church, and there’s a celebration feast.
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts
of God’s holy people.)
You, we and they will all be at the same table. You may be sitting right next to one of the Apostles. Or next to the church lady who annoys you. Or a homeless guy. Or someone beheaded for his faith. Or next to the composer of the Christian music you dislike. Or a shepherd who witnessed that heavenly Christmas chorus.
Know this. You will be lovin’ it!
“She is from every nation,
yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth.”
The Church’s One Foundation
Samuel John Stone (1839-1900),
We ended the in-person study discussing who we’d like to sit next to at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I said Priscilla–she must have great stories about her long-term house guest, the Apostle Paul.