Feb 22, 2017
By Gordon Lawton
These are interesting times. Technology has multiplied so that we can now hold a computer in our hand and carry it in our pocket or purse. There is more power in these hand-held computers (we call them smart phones) than in the computer that was used by the USA to send men to the moon.
These are interesting times in which we live. Here in the USA we have been through a contentious presidential election. And now 2+ months on, there is still a din of voices for and against the results.
These are interesting times. Basic Christian values which I was taught and, which seemed in my youth to be held if not valued by the majority, are now attacked and legislated away — and I am told I am a bigot for holding those values.
Times were interesting in the 1940s when Ruth Jones wrote her hymn “In Times Like These.” The world was at war. It was a declared war in Europe and the Pacific. The USA tried to stay neutral but, responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, declared war on Japan and its ally
Germany. This war was still in process when this hymn was published in 1944. Whether it was released before or after D-day (June 6, 1944), it spoke of the need, in times like these, for an anchor that will hold people to Jesus the solid rock.
St Matthew writes of Jesus the Rock.
In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asks the disciples who people thought he was. They had various answers. Peter, whose name in Greek is Petros, answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus calls him blessed and notes that this answer was given to him by the Father in Heaven. And then he adds, “you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Jesus then gives Peter the keys to the kingdom to bind and loose on earth and this binding and loosing will have implications in Heaven. Petros is a proper name that means stone or boulder. Petra is a prime word in Greek that means a large mass of rock. Because of this difference in Greek words, the rock on which the church is built is not Peter the man, but the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. As to the binding and loosing, Peter did loose, or open the door for non-Jews (Gentiles). This is recorded in Acts 10 when he, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, goes to the home of Cornelius and presents the gospel. Their conversion is affirmed by the coming of the Holy Spirit on them, like a second Pentecost. In Acts 11, Peter explains his actions to those who were skeptical that non-Jews could be saved. Peter answered them by saying “‘if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?’ When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.’” (Acts 11:17-18)
St. Peter writes of Jesus the Rock.
In 1 Peter 2:8, Peter creates a word picture of the Church as a building with each believer being a stone built into a spiritual house, with Jesus Christ as “a chosen and precious cornerstone” (vs 6). Today a cornerstone is a valued place to put documents related to the building and its construction and intended use. Sometimes it is a time capsule. The Boulder SDB Church has the cornerstone that was used in the first building (1894) and the second building (1928) placed in the new building (1996). When it was removed from the second building, there were documents and mementoes inside. In the time that Peter wrote, a cornerstone was an integral part of the construction process. It was placed first. It was shaped so that the walls would line up with its sides. In most cases the stone was set at a 90 degree corner and the walls were measured from that corner and would be lined up along the sides of the stone. With this understanding, Peter’s words have more meaning. Jesus is the first building block of the church. We all fall in line with him and he sets our direction. He is the “chosen and precious cornerstone.” (vs 6)
St. Paul writes of Jesus the Rock.
Paul, the scholar who studied under Gamaliel, quotes Isaiah in Romans 9:33: “See, I lay in Zion a
stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” This is in his argument in chapters 9-10, that the Gentiles are also saved and that salvation is by faith, not by keeping the law. Paul uses the illustration of Jesus being the foundation in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. He (Christ) is the foundation, the solid rock, the cornerstone.
So we have Matthew, Peter, and Paul all describing Jesus Christ as a stone or solid rock.
Let’s look at scripture that helps us understand what our anchor should be.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of hope as an anchor. In chapter 6 verses 13-20, we are told of Abraham waiting for the promise of many descendants. For most of his life he did not see the promise fulfilled, but he trusted God and had hope. In verses 18 and 19 we read, “we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Because of our faith we have hope for eternal life in the presence of God.
John Newton, captain of a slave ship, heard the gospel, was saved and changed his ways, knew of this hope. In the third verse of “Amazing Grace” he states, “The Lord has promised good to me; His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.”
In times like these we do need to hold to the solid rock of the Lord Jesus Christ. In times like these we do need to have that anchor of hope for eternity with our Lord. In times like these we need the Bible to help us learn about God and his direction for us. We do need to be sure that our “anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”
All Bible quotes from NIV 1984
Newton, John, Amazing Grace, pick a hymnal. In Public Domain
Jones, Ruth C, In Times Like These, © 1944, Singspiration Music, renewed 1972 (#577 The Celebration Hymnal)
Ruth was the daughter of Edmund Jones and Hannah E. Caye Jones, and wife of George B. Jones. A self-taught
pianist and organist, she worked with her husband in the evangelism field. In 1948, they founded a radio ministry
in Erie, PA, broadcasting a weekly family devotional program from their home called “A Visit with the Jones.”
Sources: Reynolds, p. 347; http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/j/o/n/jones_rc.htm 1-25-17