For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)
This observation by the apostle Paul warns Christians that it is possible to build either successfully or with awful failure on the foundation that Jesus Christ has laid for us. You also may recall that the Lord Jesus Himself warned about building a house on the rock versus on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A house built on the rock of the sayings of God would stand against the storms that would come. That which was built on the “sand” of human wisdom would suffer a disastrous collapse.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a major U.S. Religious Landscape Survey in 2008.1 An update in 2012 noted that there was little change in the major demographics except that there has been growth in unaffiliated Americans from some 15% to 20% of the population.2 The enormous undertaking in 2008 surveyed 35,000 Americans and concluded that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith. Seven in 10 say many religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one way to interpret the Scriptures. Although 9 in 10 believe in God, only 6 in 10 believe He is personal, and about 3 in 10 see “god” as an impersonal force in the universe.
America is still mostly classified as Christian. Evangelicals make up 26.3% of churches, mainline Protestants are 18.1%, and Catholics 23.9% (for a total of 68.3% of the population). However, of all the religious groups surveyed, only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses contained a majority who believe that their beliefs represent the “only” way to heaven.
Here’s the startling fact: Over half (57%) of evangelical Protestant church members believe that other religions can lead to eternal life. How can the Church impact the world for Christ if so few professing Christians understand, much less witness to, the truth of their faith?
There is no more all-encompassing command in the New Testament than to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). But before we shrug off the duty as already being done, may I suggest that many of our churches have lost sight of the breadth and depth of the good news, relegating it in some cases to a platitude to be embraced, with little awareness of the majesty and enormity of who the Savior is.
Permit me to share the full gospel as it is presented in the Scriptures.
The Cross of Christ
The Greek words for gospel appear 101 times in the New Testament. The central reference (50 before and 50 after) is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The central focus, of course, is the death, physical burial, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This good news is to be received and believed by faith, once for all. It is the means by which we are saved continually and forever, and it is the fact upon which we firmly stand. This great message of the atoning work of Christ is emphatically to be defined, understood, and preached specifically “according to the Scriptures” (vv. 3-4).
The Consummation in Christ
The first occurrence of the word gospel is in Matthew 4:23 where we are told that Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” It is vital to stress the final consummation when Christ will finally be acknowledged by all creation to be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Certainly part of the good news is the great promise that we who have been saved by the work of Christ on the cross will one day “always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The Creation by Christ
The last occurrence is in Revelation 14:6 where the mighty angel is sent from the throne of God flying throughout Earth preaching “the everlasting gospel” that must be preached to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” Here, it is abundantly clear that the emphasis is on Christ as Creator, for we are told to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). Surely all students of Scripture are aware that the same Jesus who substituted Himself for our sin on the cross of Calvary is the great Creator who spoke the worlds into existence (Hebrews 1:2).
The Strong Foundation
Evangelical churches have done well in presenting the central message of the gospel and have, at least in some measure, given credence to the consummation message of the gospel through prophecy conferences and various sermons about the return of Christ and our hope of heaven. But the gospel entails the full scope of the work of Jesus Christ, involving the whole sweep of His redemptive purpose in history.
It does appear, however, that the creation message has been neglected among many churches. Perhaps it would be well for us to remember how important that foundational doctrine really is to the good news.
The magnificent gospel of John (often given away in booklet form as a strong witnessing tool) is built around seven unique miracles of creation that the Lord Jesus demonstrated publicly. These great works could only have been accomplished by the omniscient and omnipotent Creator Himself. They were recorded “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). In fact, Jesus Himself said that He showed this power so that we would believe Him “for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11).
Three other passages in Scripture set this clear basis for the gospel.
By Him all things were created.
By Him all things consist (or are saved from destruction).
By Him all things are reconciled.
He made the worlds.
He is upholding all things.
He becomes heir of all things.
For of Him
And through Him
And to Him are all things.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ encompasses this entire threefold work of Christ—the creation of all things, the conservation of this present world, and the consummation of the universe to His perfection: Past—Present—Future.
Neglect the Creation—there is no Foundation or Standard or Ability.
Neglect the Cross—there is no Power or Authority or Justice.
Neglect the Consummation—there is no Hope or Joy or Victory.
Lay the Foundation Deep
A house or any other building is only as strong as its foundation. It is certainly worth remembering that the church is called the “house” of God (1 Timothy 3:15). Each of us who is twice-born becomes the “temple” of the Holy Spirit. It surely must follow then that both our own persons and our churches must be attending to the strength of the foundation of all that we can grasp about the great Creator-Savior who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
And the foundation of who, and what, our Lord Jesus is begins with the omnipotent and omniscient creation of our universe. If we get that wrong—or if we neglect to strengthen our understanding of how important that aspect of His character really is in Scripture—or if we begin to entertain the “philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8)—we are heading for a terrible fall.
Yet, by the grace of God, this fall can be avoided. We can be confident that Christ is who He says He is because the foundation of our beliefs, the book of Genesis, is scientifically accurate in its truths.
Readers of Acts & Facts will know by now that ICR has been investing in a 12-episode DVD series, Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis. The series should be available and in our distribution center by the end of May. These short, 22-minute episodes are specifically designed to confirm and strengthen faith in the majestic truths of the creation—particularly as they reveal the accuracy of Scripture through the clear evidence of science. Each set comes with a thorough viewer guide providing extra insights, follow-up questions, and lists of other resources in ICR’s vast online archive relevant to each episode.
We’re offering a special discount this summer. Please make plans to use this DVD series in your Sunday school class, home Bible study, Sunday night series, or mid-week meetings soon.
- U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, Religious Affiliation: Diverse and Dynamic, February 2008. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Available on religions.pewforum.org.
- One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. Pew Research Center press release, October 10, 2012.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.