During my recent morning devotions, reading about an old hymn titled “The Church’s One Foundation,” the Lord reminded me of the centrality of Christ and of the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter responds confidently, “You are the ‘Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus commends Peter for his confession and affirms his leadership role as the one who would play an intregal part in building the church. Peter responded to Jesus, the Son of God, in how he understood God that moment. Moments later, Peter reveals his theological confusion when he tries to reassure Jesus that he surely would not die a criminals death on the death on the cross that Jesus had foreshadowed for His disciples. (Matthew 16:21-23).
Peter responded to Jesus from the knowledge and understanding he had of God at the time. In my time of walking with Jesus, I discovered this is often how it is for us. We are limited in our understanding of who God is and all that He has done for us. Over time, through bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, we learn more about the God we serve and worship. This proved to be true in Peter’s case. It has proven to be true in mine, also.
Often described as the poor man’s pastor, Samuel Stone showed his firm conviction that the church served as the instrument of Christ through how he lived.
Samuel Stone spent much of his time ministering to the underprivileged, less fortunate, poor, and destitute of his East End London community. People credited him with creating a “beautiful place of worship for humble folk,” where he, “made it a cener of light amidst the darkness.”
For Samuel Stone, the local church served as a spiritual hospital for hurting people. In his mind, the church consisted of people who met regularly for worship, inspirtation, instruction, and fellowship and than went out into the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The church, he contended, was not an exclusive private club for self-righteous individuals but rather a beacon of hope in the darkest recesses of the local community.
The hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation, ” stems from Stone’s desire to write a hymn reaffirming the lordship of Christ and the central role Jesus played in the lives of believers and in the church, locally and universally. His hymn is based on the Apostles’ Creed and rooted in Scripture.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.
Samuel Stone understood that as believers we need to put Christ first, above all things, because that is the place that not only Christ deserves, but the position God, the Father, has placed Him in. Christ is supreme above everything. As believers, our lives must reflect that truth. If we are to walk in God’s will (and as believers, we must) Jesus Christ must always be the central focus of our personal and corporate lives. For us, there can be no other way.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)
When the beginning began, Jesus was with God and all things were created through Him (John 1:2-3). Because Jesus is the only Son of God, Paul pointed out that Jesus is therefore entitled to all the special privileges and considerations of a firstborn son. To be clear, Paul is not saying that Jesus was born like you and I are born. Jesus has always been. He has always existed. Paul goes on to point out that Jesus’ resurrection serves as the source of life and reconciliation for all believers, making those who were once dead, alive in Christ. Therefore, Paul calls Jesus the firstborn of the dead. Jesus made the way for us. He paved the road for salvation that is available to each of us. Through Jesus, all things have been reconciled to God and we walk in faith today knowing that eventually God will usher in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).
Throughout his ministry, Samuel Stone served in different churches throughout England. He wrote numerous hymns, publishing them along with his poems in several collections. His skillfully written hymns maintain a hopeful spirit amid the challenges faced during those days. Today, they serve as a reminder and offer a word of encouragement to us as we tackle the myriad of challenges set before us.
The Church’s One Foundation written by Samuel Stone (1866)
1 The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word:
from heav’n he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.
2 Elect from ev’ry nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with ev’ry grace endued.
3 Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.
4 The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
though there be those that hate her,
and false sons in her pale,
against both foe and traitor
she ever shall prevail.
5 ‘Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.
6 Yet she on earth hath union
with the God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.
Yes, each generation faces challenges. Some new (like COVID-19) and some tired and worn (like racism). We are not immue to difficulties because our forefathers tackled their challenges. Should the Lord tarry in His return, the next generation will face their own problems and pandemics. Difficult circumstances and challenging situations provide us with the opportuntity to grow in Christ or, abiding in our own power, stand in defeat. The choice is ours.
I pray all is well with you and those you love. Keep Christ front and center in your life!
From the Piney Woods of East Texas,
More of Him, Less of me
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Getz, Gene (2011) Life Essentials Study Bible. Holman Bible Publishers. Nashville.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. (2002) Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories. Kregel. Grand Rapids.