Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The pillar and foundation of the truth

In 1 Timothy 3:15 the Apostle Paul speaks to what the church must preach and to how people ought to conduct themselves in the church. He uses several names to describe the church: he calls it a household, and the pillar and foundation of the truth.

These are architectural terms. A house needs a foundation and pillars. In the time of Paul if one were going to build a house, he would first dig in the ground to lay the foundation. On the foundation he would erect pillars, and these pillars would hold up the roof. The pillar and foundation had the same function: to hold up that built upon it. Today we would still need first to lay a foundation, either of concrete blocks or of poured concrete. And upon that we then erect studs to hold up the upper stories and the roof. (I write this as one who has never been involved in any aspect of the building trades, so I hope I'm reasonably accurate.)

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The broader context of 1 Timothy 3 is instructive and we need to look both ways, backwards and forwards. Looking backwards to the verses 1-13, we read that Paul mentions the qualifications for office-bearers in the church. Paul wrote this so that Timothy would know how the Christians of Ephesus were to "...conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Elsewhere, scripture says that Christ is the foundation upon which we, the church, are built (1 Peter 2), but here the church is the foundation and the pillar. 

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Looking forwards to the following verse we see that Paul mentions a very brief Christian confession: He (Christ) was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. The church must proclaim this revealed truth about Christ.

It is important to note that the church is holding up the truth. The church does not define what the truth is; it holds up the truth defined by someone else. It is God who defines the truth, and the church is called to hold it up in the world. 

Just as we do not make up the truth of what the Christian confession might be, so we do not make up the truth about what the household rules should be. Both are part of God's revealed truth. 

Scripture tells us who are meant to serve as office bearers. Christ calls us all--old and young, male and female--to places of service in the church. Don't worry! You have been called to a place of service. Christ calls brothers to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons. Sisters he calls to tasks which men (at least, I speak for myself) could not do and for which they are wholly unqualified.

May God be with the church! We may not be condemnatory or judgmental, but we are required to observe, consider, and, at times, make judgments, also about whom Christ calls to serve as office bearers in the church.