Paul wrote to a divided Corinthian church (I Corinthians 1:10-12, 3:3). Its members exhibited varying allegiance to Paul, Apollos, Cephas [Peter] and Christ (I Corinthians 1:12). Paul drew upon the imagery of construction to help ease the tension. He drew them back to the bedrock:
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:11 NASB)Paul reminded the Corinthians that their allegiance was owed to Jesus and not any particular minister as Christ is the foundation. The analogy has stood through the centuries. The Catholic Church teaches, “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God (I Corinthians 3:9). The Lord compared himself to the stones which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner stone (Matthew 21:42; cf. Acts 4:11; I Peter 2:7; Psalm 118:22). On this foundation the church is built by the apostles (cf. I Corinthians 3:11) and from it the church receives solidarity and unity (The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition, 216).”
When updating a building, it is essential to do so in deference to the structure’s foundation. Richard B. Hays (b. 1948) summarizes, “The superstructure of the building (church) must conform to the pattern of that foundation. Otherwise it would be crooked and unstable (Hays, First Corinthians (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 54).” Anthony C. Thiselton (b. 1937) adds strongly, “Any other foundation would not merely make the building precarious, it would cease to exist as that building (Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 310).”
What is the foundation of your spiritual belief structure? What are the non-negotiables of your faith?
The division that the Corinthians church experienced two thousand years ago has characterized much of Christian history. In dealing with conflict, Paul points back to the foundation, the unifying principle - namely Jesus.
If you believe that a man died, was raised and because of that you have been granted salvation, what other common ground is needed? Are there any branches of Christianity’s tree that should not be able to cooperate with one another? If so, under what circumstances?
“Christ was called the foundation-stone (I Corinthians 3:11) because he bears everything and holds it.” - John Chrysostom (347-407), “My Father’s Working Still”