"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." (1 Corinthians 3:11-13)
The apostle had much trial with this church. He spoke at first unto them as unto carnal. There was much carnality among them. "One saith I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:3) See how he speaks to the Ephesians, Philippians and Thessalonians. He expresses his affection strongly to them. But he says to the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates. But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates." They called in question his ministry. He calls them babes. A babe is as much beloved as Paul was. Paul says, "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." There are different sorts, and therefore we must examine ourselves whether we are gold or hay. There is a great deal of forgery in the world at large, and also in the religious world. Therefore, "let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." This is working out our salvation with fear and trembling. If we have not this fear it is not a good sign. "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." (Isa. 28:16) Did you consider that word? Our text refers to it. No man was ever sent to preach the Gospel who could not declare what God had done for his soul, as David did, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." (Ps. 66:16) The Lord Jesus said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) I am a great sinner, but Christ is a greater Saviour. If you are a sensible sinner and need a Saviour, you must go to Jesus.
"Repentance is a gift bestow'd,
To save a soul from death:
Gospel repentance towards God,
Is always join'd to faith."
Paul laid the foundation. What was that? It was the same as laid by all the apostles, and is called "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Eph. 2:20) This was laid in the purpose of God, and then in the promises of God, as we read in Isaiah 28. Peter writes to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, etc. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,etc. In the next chapter he calls them new-born babes, and he adds, "Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 2:5) Here we may try ourselves whether we are God's children or not. Peter is speaking to those who are newly regenerated and born again. Do you think that you can go to heaven without this? "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) The Lord first teaches regeneration--no trust in water baptism. The work is to be tried of what sort it is. Take Peter's words, "As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." (1 Pet. 2:2) Are you quickened to feel your misery as sinners? Regeneration is the infusion of the spirit and grace of Christ into the heart of a poor sinner, that is by nature dead in trespasses and sins. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) I don't think that every one can state the exact time and way in which God first met him, but you may trace it in the effects. Feeling, crying, breathing, all prove life. "This is my comfort in my affliction; for thy word hath quickened me." (Ps. 119:50) The Lord put this cry into my heart, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Have you been brought to feel your sin, and that you need a Saviour, and to have a desire after him? If so, then God has secured you. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:27,28) There is no may be here, but it shall be. "The desire of the righteous shall be granted." (Prov. 10:24) "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." (1 Pet. 2:7) Did you ever find Christ precious to you? He is this precious foundation. "There is none other name under heaven given amongst men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) "Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) I can not only quote that Scripture, but bless God that I know it experimentally. Paul speaks of laying Christ as the foundation ministerially. He laid Christ as the only foundation for man to build on. He said, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2) If you are building at all upon what you have done, or fancy you can do, you are on a sandy foundation. He has commanded us to rest upon his person, righteousness, and precious atoning blood. Christ says, "Without me you can do nothing." His work is perfect. Do nothing to it. How shall I know that I am brought to this foundation? "To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious; ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house." (1 Pet. 2:4,5) When a poor sinner is quickened, he is a lively stone--then he falls on this foundation. "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Matt. 21:44) "He is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient." (1 Pet. 2:8) But unto them which believe he is precious. Are you brought as a poor needy sinner to venture upon Christ? You will be broken. A broken hearted sinner, and a loving hearted Saviour meet together. The contrition and godly sorrow form a cement of love which binds you to Christ. The foundation and the building are thus cemented together. In the very act of falling upon Christ, you find the contrition. The living stone and the living foundation are together.
"This union with wonder
And rapture be seen,
Which nothing shall sunder,
Without or within."
Did you not find a sweet love to Christ when you ventured on him? Can you respond and say, I know it is so? Would you part with that hope for all the world? A good hope through grace is worth a thousand worlds. "Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house." The gold, silver, and precious stones are the elect. The wood, hay, stubble, are mere empty professors. Some are brought doctrinally and notionally to fall on the foundation, but never are cemented to it.
"Some this, some that good virtue teach
To rectify the soul;
But we first after Jesus reach,
And richly grasp the whole."
Venture upon the precious blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Faith working by love will cement you so to Christ, that you will say, "How precious is the Saviour!" Have you ever found Christ precious in believing? Then God for his sake assures you that once on this foundation you can never be removed from it.