“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” asks the terrified jailer, cutting through all the other questions of life which pale in comparison. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” said the apostles.
Paul said it elsewhere: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Our Lutheran Confessions call this “the chief article” by which the Church stands or falls. It is the doctrine of justification – that we are declared righteous, not guilty before God, through faith in Jesus Christ who lived and died in our stead. Faith believes the gospel, the good news that God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to do for all what they could not do for themselves. It is the truth that while the law says, “Do!”, the gospel says, “Done!” While the law says, “Pay up!”, the gospel says, “Paid in full!”
There is “no other foundation” than Jesus Christ Himself.” Jesus says so: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” The apostles second this: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
This “chief article” must always face the world’s scorn and ridicule. Many of the people you brush up against each day are not grounded on this one Foundation. Their fondest wish is that you would parade with them after the pied pipers of today’s pluralism which preaches that all roads lead to heaven, that all lifestyles are OK, that Christ and the Bible belong in a museum.
It is easy to trade away this “chief article by which the church stands or falls.” We can lose it by picking up spare parts from the junkyards of less orthodox churches to keep the Lutheran machine moving, sort of like trying to interchange Chevy and Ford parts. We can lose it by turning the great commission about what Christ has done into the great commercial about what we are doing. We can lose it by building entire instruction courses and mission agendas around our own “ministries” (again, what we are doing) rather than on Christ’s redemption (what He has done). We can lose it by portraying salvation as a minor repair job rather than a rescue story, or by paying lip service to the cross and empty tomb, but trading away its transforming power for a litany of laws, steps and guidelines – leading souls to either self-righteousness or despair.
These “other gospels,” as Paul called them in Galatians, so prevalent on the American landscape, are impostors. You can’t build your life on them. When the rains come down and the streams rise and the winds blow, there is going to be a great crash if the house of our heart and life is not founded upon the Rock. “The Church’s one Foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord,” says the old hymn. You and I wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?