Christian Boot Camp - Foundational Truths
For fifty years I have been teaching, counseling, and praying for Christians from a multitude of national and denominational backgrounds. The problems in their lives have been as varied as their backgrounds, but underneath them all, I have continually discerned one basic deficiency: They have never laid a sound doctrinal foundation. Consequently, they have never been able to build a stable, successful Christians life.
I picture such Christianss as people who have purchased a lot to build a home for themselves. Over the years, they have assembled a mass of materials, acquired from attending various churches, conferences, seminars, or even Bible colleges. Yet, despite all this, no house has ever been built. All they have to show for their activity is an ever-growing pile of things they have acquired – building materials, furnishings, appliances, and so on.
From time to time they attend yet another conference and return with some special item for the house – perhaps a marble bath or an oak front door. Yet the house never takes shape. The reason is simple: They have never laid the necessary foundation.
Does this description perhaps apply to you – or to someone whom you are trying to counsel?
In this series, you will be confronted – possibly for the first time in your life – with the fact that there is a specific foundation of biblical doctrines which you must lay before you can build a successful Christians life. You will discover that the Bible reveals six such doctrines (see Heb. 6:1-2). If you work carefully through the book, you will be thoroughly grounded in all six of them. You will also discover how they fit into the total revelation of Scripture.
Once you have mastered these foundational doctrines and learned how to apply them practically in your life, you will be in a position to make use of all that material you have been piling up through the years – even the marble bath and the oak front door!
This is not a dream or merely wishful thinking. It is something extremely real and practical. It works!
I have proved this in two ways. First, it has worked in my own life. I have been able to build a life of successful Christians service which has stood the test of more than fifty difficult and strenuous years.
Second, it has produced similar results in the lives of countless others to whom I have ministered. I hardly ever attend a church or a conference in any nation where I am not approached by some grateful Christians who says, “Brother Prince, I want to thank you that your teaching has given me a solid foundation on which I have been building for many years.”
The material for this series has been developed from Derek Prince’s book entitled “Foundational Truths For Christian Living”.
About The Bible
Adherents to the Christians faith throughout the world today’s number at least one billion persons. This total includes Christianss from all sections of the church, in all areas of the earth, and from a multitude of racial backgrounds. Not all these are actively practicing their faith, but all are recognized as adherents. As such, they constitute one of the largest and most significant elements in the world’s population.
Virtually all of these Christians recognize the Bible as the authoritative basis of their faith and practice. The Bible also plays a significant role in two other major world religions: Judaism and Islam. By all objective standards, it is the most widely read and influential book in the history of the human race. Year after year it consistently heads the list of the best-selling books of the world. It is obvious, therefore, that any person who desires a good general education cannot afford to omit the study of the Bible.
The Bible, as we have it today, is divided into two major sections. The first section, the Old Testament, contains thirty-nine books. It was written primarily in Hebrew – although a few portions were written in a sister Semitic language called Aramaic. The second section, the New Testament, contains twenty-seven books. The oldest extant manuscripts are in Greek.
The Old Testament describes briefly the creation of the world and, in particular, of Adam. It relates how Adam and his wife, Eve, disobeyed God and thereby brought a series of evil consequences upon themselves, their descendants, and the entire environment in which God had placed them. It then goes on to trace in outline, the history of the first generations descended from Adam.
After eleven chapters, the Old Testament focuses on Abraham, a man chosen by God to be the father of a special people, through whom God purposed to provide redemption for the entire human race. It records the origin and history of these special people, to whom God gave the name Israel. Altogether, the Old Testament records the dealings of God with Abraham and his descendants over about two thousand years.
The Old Testament reveals various important aspects of God’s character and His dealings both with individuals and with nations. Included in this revelation are God’s justice and His judgments; His wisdom and His power; His mercy and His faithfulness. The Old Testament particularly emphasizes God’s faithfulness to keep the covenants and promises He makes, whether with individuals or with nations.
Central to God’s special purpose for Israel was His promise, sealed by His covenant, that He would send them a deliverer with the God-given task of redeeming mankind from all the consequences of his rebellion and restoring him to God’s favor. The Hebrew title of this deliverer was Messiah – which means literally “anointed one.”
The New Testament records the outworking of this promise in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is indicated by the title given Him: Jesus. This title is derived from a Greek word – Jesusos – which means precisely the same as the Hebrew title Messiah – that is, “anointed one.” Jesus came to Israel as the anointed One whom God had promised in the Old Testament. He fulfilled everything that the Old Testament had foretold about His coming. Viewed from this perspective, the Old Testament and the New Testament are linked together to form a single, harmonious revelation of God and His purposes for man.
The Foundation of the Christians Faith
In various places, the Bible compares the life of a believer to the construction of a building. For instance, the epistle of Jude says: “Building yourselves up on your most holy faith” (v. 20).
The apostle Paul also uses the same picture in various places:
You are God’s building.. as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation (1 Cor. 3:9).
You also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22).
I commend you . . . to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up (Acts 20:32).
In all these passages the believer’s life is compared to the construction of a building.
Jesus is the Rock
What, then, is God’s appointed foundation for the Christians life? The answer is given by the apostle Paul: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Jesus” (1 Cor. 3:11).
This is confirmed also by Peter as he speaks of Jesus Jesus: “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious’ ” (1 Pet. 2:6).
Here Peter is referring to the passage in Isaiah which reads: “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation’ ” (Is. 28:16). Thus Old Testament and New Testament alike agree on this vital fact: The true foundation of the Christians life is Jesus Jesus Himself – nothing else, and no one else. It is not a creed, a church, a denomination, an ordinance or a ceremony. It is Jesus Jesus Himself – and “no other foundation can anyone lay.”
Consider the words of Jesus.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples,
“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Jesus, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:13-18).
It has sometimes been suggested that these words of Jesus mean that Peter is the rock upon which the Christians church is to be built, and thus that Peter is in some sense the foundation of Christiansity rather than Jesus Himself. This question is of such vital and far-reaching importance that it is imperative to examine the words of Jesus very carefully to ascertain their proper meaning.
In the original Greek of the New Testament, there is, in Jesus’s answer to Peter, a deliberate play upon words. In Greek, the name “Peter” is Petros; the word for “rock” is petra. Playing upon this similarity in sound, Jesus says, “You are Peter [Petros], and on this rock [petra] I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18).
The revelation of Jesus being “the Jesus, the Son of the living God” is the rock upon which the church was to be built upon. Not Peter the person as many believe within the Catholic faith.
Common sense and Scripture alike confirm this fact. If the church of Jesus were founded upon the apostle Peter, it would surely be the most insecure and unstable edifice in the world. Later in the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read that Jesus began to forewarn His disciples of His impending rejection and crucifixion. The account then continues:
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:22-23).
Here Jesus directly charges Peter with being influenced by the opinions of men, and even by the promptings of Satan himself. How could such a man be the foundation of the entire Christians church?
Later on, in the Gospels we read that, rather than confess Jesus before a serving maid, Peter publicly denied his Lord three times.
Even after the resurrection and the day of Pentecost, Paul tells us that Peter was influenced by fear of his countrymen to compromise at one point concerning the truth of the gospel (see Gal. 2:11-14).
Surely, then, Peter was no rock. He was loveable, impetuous, a born leader – but a man just like the rest, with all the inherent weaknesses of humanity. The only rock upon which Christians faith can be based is Jesus Himself.
Confirmation of this vital fact is found also in the Old Testament.
The psalmist David, prophetically inspired by the Holy Spirit, says this:
The Lord is my rock . . . in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Ps. 18:2).
In Psalm 62 David makes a similar confession of faith.
Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
My soul, wait silently for God alone . . . . . . He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God (Ps. 62:1-2, 5-7).
Nothing could be plainer than that. The word rock occurs three times, and the word salvation occurs four times. That is to say, the words rock and salvation are by the Scripture intimately and inseparably joined. Each is found only in one person, and that Person is the Lord Himself. This is emphasized by the repetition of the word only.
If anyone should require yet further confirmation of this, we may turn to the words of Peter himself. Speaking to the people of Israel concerning Jesus, Peter says:
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
The Lord Jesus Jesus, therefore, is the true rock, the rock of ages, in whom there is salvation. The person who builds upon this foundation can say, like David:
He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved (Ps. 62:6).
How, then, does a person build upon this rock, which is Jesus?
Let us turn back again to that dramatic moment when Jesus and Peter stood face-to-face and Peter said, “You are the Jesus, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). We have seen that Jesus is the rock. But it is not Jesus in isolation or abstraction. Peter had a definite personal experience.
Let’s examine the four successive stages in this experience.
1. A direct, personal confrontation of Peter by Jesus. Jesus and Peter stood face-to-face. There was no mediator between them. No other human being played any part at all in the experience.
2. A direct, personal revelation granted to Peter. Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). This was not the outcome of natural reasoning or intellectual understanding. It was the outcome of a direct spiritual revelation to Peter by God the Father Himself.
3. A personal acknowledgment by Peter of the truth which had thus been revealed to him.
4. An open and public confession by Peter of the truth which he acknowledged.
In these four successive stages, we see what it means to build upon the rock. There is nothing abstract, intellectual, or theoretical about the whole thing. Each stage involves a definite, individual experience.
The first stage is a direct, personal confrontation of Jesus. The second stage is a direct, spiritual revelation of Jesus. The third stage is a personal acknowledgment of Jesus. The fourth stage is an open and personal confession of Jesus. Through these four experiences, Jesus becomes for each believer the rock upon which his faith is built.
The question arises: Can a person today come to know Jesus in the same direct, personal way that Peter came to know Him?
The answer is yes, for the following two reasons: First, it was not Jesus in His purely human nature who was revealed to Peter: Peter already knew Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son. The One who was now revealed to Peter was the divine, eternal, unchanging Son of God. This is the same Jesus who now lives exalted in heaven at the Father’s right hand. In the passage of nearly two thousand years, there has been no change in Him at all. It is still Jesus Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was revealed to Peter, He can still be revealed today to those who sincerely seek Him.
Second, the revelation did not come by “flesh and blood” – by any physical or sensory means. It was a spiritual revelation, the work of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who gave this revelation to Peter is still at work in all the world, revealing the same Jesus. Jesus Himself promised His disciples:
When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-14).
Since spiritual revelation is in the eternal, spiritual realm, it is not limited by material or physical factors, such as the passage of time or the change of language, customs, clothing or circumstances.
This personal experience of Jesus Jesus the Son of God – by the Holy Spirit revealed, acknowledged and confessed – remains the one unchanging rock, the one immovable foundation, upon which all true Christians faith must be based. Creeds and opinions, churches and denominations – all these may change, but this one true rock of God’s salvation by personal faith in Jesus remains eternal and unchanging. Upon it a person may build his faith for time and for eternity with a confidence that nothing can ever overthrow.
Nothing is more striking in the writings and testimony of the early Christians’ than their serenity and confidence concerning their faith in Jesus. Jesus says:
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Jesus whom You have sent (John 17:3).
This is not merely to know God in a general way through nature or conscience as Creator or Judge. This is to know Him revealed personally in Jesus Jesus. Neither is it to know about Jesus Jesus merely as a historical character or a great teacher. It is to know Jesus Himself, directly and personally, and God in Him. The apostle John writes:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
The early Christians’ not only believed, but they also knew. They had an experiential faith which produced a definite knowledge of that which they believed.
A little further on in the same chapter John writes again:
We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus (v. 20).
Note the humble, yet serene, confidence of these words. Their basis is knowledge of a person, and that Person is Jesus Jesus Himself. Paul gave the same kind of personal testimony when he said:
I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2 Tim. 1:12).
Notice that Paul did not say, “I know what I have believed.” He said, “I know whom I have believed.” His faith was not founded upon a creed or a church, but upon a Person whom he knew by direct acquaintance – Jesus Jesus. As a result of this personal acquaintance with Jesus, he had a serene confidence concerning the well-being of his soul, which nothing in time or eternity could overthrow.
For several years I conducted regular street meetings in Los Angeles, California. At the close of the meetings, I would sometimes approach people who had listened to the message and ask them this simple question: “Are you a Christians?” Many times I would receive answers such as, “I think so,” or “I hope so,” or “I try to be,” or “I don’t know.” All who give answers like these betray one fact: Their faith is not built upon the one sure foundation of a direct, personal knowledge of Jesus Jesus.
Suppose I were to put that same question to you: Are you a Christian? What kind of answer would you be able to give?
One final word of advice from Job:
Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; Thereby good will come to you (Job 22:21).