A number of years ago several houses in a Philadelphia neighborhood experienced a problem. It seems they were actually sinking. After the usual investigation by the city it was determined that these particular homes werenít built on solid foundation. Over the years they began to sink and would soon have to be vacated. Those houses highlighted the necessity of a strong, solid foundation. For no matter how nice it looks and no matter how well itís maintained a house built on a faulty foundation will never be able to fulfill its primary purpose.

Sinking House

So with houses, so with theology. No matter how attractive a church building or church movement on the outside and no matter how appealing it is to our inward emotional and psychological yearnings a church or movement built on a faulty foundation will never fulfill its primary purpose. Thatís not to say that individual churches and movements will sport a great deal of activity, draw a great deal of attention and enjoy the loyalty of a great many people. However, as Biblically driven believers our adherence to and promotion of a sound witness must be motivated by a desire to glorify God. That is our witness must highlight, emphasize and broadcast His significance, power, righteousness, justice, holiness, sovereignty, love, grace, goodness, salvation and Son, Jesus Christ.

Our last article, ĎBattle Stations Part 4í introduced some of the basics of the foundations of our theology. Reformed theology leads with proposition that all that we believe and practice is found in and based on Scripture alone. Scripture alone teaches that our great salvation has been secured by Christ alone, given to us by grace alone, obtained through faith alone and that this salvation and all of life is to and for Godís glory alone.

The next brick in the foundation of our theology continues our exploration into how God saves His people to the praise of His glory. We preach, promote and live this theology because it highlights the depths of the riches and wisdom of God. This theology is the story of our salvation. And that story begins with Godís sovereign election of a people for Himself. The Scripture teaches and thus we believe and promote that our salvation begins before the creation of the world when (yes I know Iím using a word connected with time to speak of something that happened outside of time) God choose us to be holy and blameless in His presence. God wasnít motivated to choose His people by anything He saw in us or knew we would do, but only by His good pleasure. Eph. 1:4-6.

Thatís not fair you say? Shouldnít God give me a fair chance to make my own decision? He knows my heart doesnít he? Exactly! And thatís your biggest problem, your own sinful, obstinate heart. The Scriptures teach that people are radically depraved. That doesnít mean that people are as bad as we could be, only that when it comes to spiritual issues we are dead in our sins. We are by nature unresponsive, unwilling and unable to positively respond to the gospel. The Biblical theology of salvation teaches that mankind is not basically good or neutral when it comes to responding to the gospel. To put it another way if God left our salvation up to our own choice weíd have as much chance of being saved as Lazarus had at raising himself from the dead! Eph. 2:1-10.

The immortal, invisible only wise God was wise enough not to leave our eternal salvation in our own hands. Jesus Christ accomplished the redemption of all those God had chosen by dying on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty of their sins. Let me restate this for the sake of clarity. When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross He actually took away the sins of all Godís people. His death didnít potentially take away the sins of every single person in the world, rather His death actually paid for the sins of all those God had chosen. To look at it another way the death of Christ on Calvary was the exact fulfillment of the ministry of Israelís high priest on the Day of Atonement. On that day the high priest atoned for all the sins of Godís people. There are two important differences between Jesus Christ and the ministry of the high priest. Firstly, the ministry of the high priest was incomplete since the blood of animals could never actually take away the sins of people. Secondly, it only covered the people of a single ethnic group. The sacrifice of Jesus however was made with His own precious blood. It was therefore a sacrifice that could actually take away the sins of all who believe once and for all. Thus, there is no more need for any more sacrifices or a temple to make sacrifices in. Secondly, the sacrifice of our Lord extends to people from all ethnic groups. It is in this way that Jesusí death paid for the sins of the world. Eph. 1:7-8.

The blessed Holy Spirit begins to apply the plan of God and work of Christ to the individual believer through the powerful preaching of the word of God. The gospel is powerful not because it's delivered with a certain amount of eloquence or combined with 'life-changing' forms of entertainment. The gospel's power lies in the reality that the Spirit gives spiritual life to dead sinners through the preaching of the gospel. Through the preaching of the gospel all those God has chosen are called effectually into His kingdom. Depending on the Spirit's power through preaching (either publicly or personally) frees us from having to rely on man made techniques to convince the lost to believe in Jesus Christ. Moreover, it gives us boldness to declare the gospel to those God has brought into our lives since we know that one's belief in Christ doesn't depend on the smoothness or charisma of our gospel presentation. One need not have a dramatic testimony or must be a particularly gifted speaker. Our Lord Jesus declared that the Spirit goes wherever He wishes giving new, vital spiritual life to those God has chosen. He brings this life through the simple preaching of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. Eph. 1:13.

Hold it right there now! You mean to tell me that all we have to do is simply preach the gospel, call for those who are hearing to believe in Jesus Christ and depend on the Spirit to give them spiritual life so that they'll be able to understand, accept and believe the gospel? Surely there must be more. What about the sacred altar call, the dimming of the lights and playing of soft moood music? Where are the breath taking testimonies and dramatic skits? And how are we to know who came to Christ unless hands are raised and the 'sinners prayer' is said out loud? Are you actually saying that all we must do is preach the gospel and God will take care of the rest? By jove I think he's got it! You see those whom God has chosen He will most certainly call. Those whom He calls will indeed respond in faith and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who believe are justified and will beyond any shadow of any doubt whatsoever be glorified. The grace of God, intercession of the Jesus Christ and ministry of the Spirit assure us of the endurance of the saints. The Spirit's work in the life of the believer will reveal itself in an ever increasing appetite for the things of God. True saints are known by the fruit (godly characteristics) the Spirit produces in them, not because they made a 'decision' under a certain amount of emotional or psychological prodding. Do you really think that the God who enacted and executed His eternal plan of salvation would fail to follow it through for all His people? Is there anyone powerful enough to wrestle us from His secure grip or crafty enough to sneak us away from His watchful care? No dear ones, as the hymn says 'yes I shall endure to the end just as sure as the earnest is given, more happy but not more secure the glorified spirits in heaven!'
Eph. 1:13-14.

Thankfully not all of the buildings in Philadelphia were constructed on faulty foundations. One particular structure has withstood the ravages of weather and time for one hundred and fifty years and appears as strong today as on the day it was built. The historic Tenth Presbyterian Church located at 17th and Spruce Sts. in Philadelphia has proclaimed and promoted the glorious doctrines of grace from that spot for all its 150 years (the church is actually 175 years old). What's even more surprising is that Tenth is actually growing numerically. Here is a traditional, center city, Reformed congregation without a parking lot (people regularly park three and four blocks away) experiencing significant growth (especially among Gen X'ers etc.) without the benefit of the latest, greatest church growth techniques. How do they do it? What's the secret to their success? That's an easy one. Tenth began building their church and ministry on the sure, solid, rock bottom foundation of our sovereign God as expressed in the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36.

Yes, and let the church say amen!