. . . [W]hen we compare the different passages which speak of the foundation of the church, we must seek the central meaning without making our case conform to one single figure or expression.
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." The Romanists say He meant Peter, and so do some others. There are others who say that He meant Himself. Still others say He meant Peter's confession, while still others say He meant the Word of God -- the living Logos as well as the written Word.
In Ephesians 2:20, assuming that this passage is referring to the church, or a church, Christ is spoken of as not the whole foundation, but He is here the chief comer stone with the apostles and prophets completing the foundation. There is also that further difficulty of deciding whether this passage refers to the prophets of the Old Testament or the New.1
Again, Paul, most surely speaking of the church, says: "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11).
From all such passages it seems sensible to draw a central truth about the foundation of the church without making our
conclusion conform to one or another of the figures exclusively. The general truth is that Christ is in some way the foundation of the church, but more especially in the sense that He is the chief comer stone. As B. H. Carroll2 and others point out, there are other corner stones in the building above the chief one, but that chief one is the one by which all the other parts of the building, including other foundation stones, are laid, and the Ephesians 2:20 passage explains fully that the apostles and prophets are in the foundation with Him. The technicalities of these figures should not disturb the main concept.
We feel sure that many people who pound out loudly that Christ is the foundation of the church, the Rock on which he would build His ekklesia, may at the same time have a rather vague idea of what they mean. Actually, the Matthew 16:18 passage makes very clear that it is not just Christ as a person seen in the flesh, but Christ as He is known only by a divine experience of revelation which makes one spiritually alive unto Him. This is the experience Peter had, and the final sense is that the church is founded on and set up after Christ as seen by a regenerated membership. No other concept of Christ would be adequate for this divine institution.
There has long been division over the question of the exact date on which the church was born. It is true that there is much ground for debate on this subject, and we do not mean merely to brush the matter aside. However, it seems to us that the contention over this matter is not as much the determining factor in other matters relating to the church as some may claim. For instance, there are those who think that if we do not have a fully organized church, finished in structure and instructed for its work and endowed with authority to act for our Lord before Pentecost, we lose our claim for autonomy of the church. There are better grounds upon which to establish such claims.
1 If the passage had meant the O. T. prophets, the order would have been "Prophets and Apostles," (See Ephesians 2:20 -- BHK), and the previous statements referred clearly to Christian times, to the preaching after Christ's death. Hence, the prophets are to be understood as Christian prophets, of whom large mention is made in the Book of Acts and the Epistles -- the NT prophets who in this same Epistle (iii. 5) are designated as Christ's prophets and are named (iv. 11) among the gifts of the ascended Lord to His Church. The frequency with which they are referred to (Acts xi. 28, xv. 32; I Corinthians xiv., etc.) and the place assigned them next to the Apostles (Ephesians iv, 11) show the prominent position they had in the primitive Church. The statements made regarding them in the non-canonical literature (The Teaching of the Twelve, Clem. Alex., Strom., the Shepherd of Hermes, etc.) show how they continued to exist and work beyond the Apostolic Age and help us to distinguish their ministry as that essentiality of teachers and exhorters, whether itinerant or resident, from the essentially missionary ministry of the Apostles. Further, the association of these prophets with the Apostles suggests that the latter term is not to be restricted here to the twelve, but is to be taken as including all those to whom the name Apostle is given in the NT . -- S. D. F. Salmond in Expositors Greek New Testament, Vol. III, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, New York, Toronto, pp. 299, 300.
See also, Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; I Corinthians 12:28, 29; Ephesians 3:5; 4:11. (BHK).
2 B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible, "Colossians, Ephesians and Hebrews" (Ephesians), p. 117.
[From Buell H. Kazee, The Church and the Ordinances, a portion of Chapter 4. The endnote numbers have been changed. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
===========Buell Kazee on Historians
The Origin of the Church