Friday, September 26, 2014

MAINTAINING TRUTH (1 Timothy Chapter 3)

1 Timothy 3:15, “…the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.”

The church of the living God is a pillar and buttress of truth.  It stands in this lofty and privileged position before the world.  God has positioned her there by grace according to His sovereign decree.  He has firmly established her in truth and bids her to live it out and proclaim it. 

Two terms are used to describe the church in its relationship to truth.  Both terms relate to a structure which is fitting inasmuch as the church is elsewhere identified to be a “holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).  The church, as a building, has been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).  It has been well founded on the truth.  Webster’s dictionary offers this definition for truth: “A transcendent, fundamental or spiritual reality.”  The truth, in this context, has to do with the manifestation of unseen spiritual and eternal realities.  We live in a “there-is-no-such-thing-as-truth” kind of day (Cf. John 18:38; Romans 1:18), but the truth stands unassailable irrespective of what people think of it.  Jesus is the embodiment of truth and came to bear witness to it (Cf. Ephesians 4:21; John 18:37).  God’s Word is truth (Cf. John 17:17).  The gospel is “the word of truth” (Ephesians 1:13).  The truth is a beautiful thing inasmuch as we are saved through its transforming influence and destined to its glorious reality.

The two terms used in reference to the church—in its relationship to the truth--are both structural terms.  The first “pillar,” refers to “a column supporting the weight of a building” and is used metaphorically “of a local church as to its responsibility, in a collective capacity, to maintain the doctrines of the faith by teaching and practice, 1 Tim. 3:15” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  The second term, “buttress,” means “a support, bulwark, stay.”  Metaphorically, the buttress speaks of that which lies at the foundation (The KJV translates the term “ground”).  Both the “pillar” and “buttress” serve a building in a supportive role, but there is a difference in their particular functions.  The buttress is the foundation, which generally lies unseen beneath the structure.  The pillar extends the supporting strength of the foundation to the superstructure of the building.  It differs from the foundation inasmuch as it is visible.  In fact, in NT times pillars served not just to support, but to adorn a building.  They were sometimes intricately carved and thus worked to beautify the structure.

The church has such a role in the world.  It does not embody truth, but adorns it.  It does that as it proclaims the truth and is changed by the truth.  It is important to note that the church of the living God is the pillar and support of this particular virtue.  Others are elsewhere esteemed in Scripture, but none can be possessed apart from truth.  Truth therefore stands in a preeminent role and all is lost if truth is forsaken.  God has given the church this truth maintaining and manifesting role.  The local church serves in this role.  Lives changed by truth adorn the truth (Cf. Titus 2:10).

It ought to be that if a person visits an evangelical church he or she would find truth being proclaimed and practiced.  But that is not always the case.  Charles Spurgeon once spoke to this need, “Remember how your fathers, in times gone by, defended God’s truth, and blush, ye cowards, who are afraid to maintain it!  Remember that our Bible is a blood-stained book; the blood of martyrs is on the Bible, the blood of translators and confessors. The pool of holy baptism, in which many of you have been baptized, is a blood-stained pool: full many have had to die for the vindication of that baptism which is ‘the answer of a good conscience toward God.’ The doctrines which we preach to you are doctrines that have been baptized in blood, swords have been drawn to slay the confessors of them; and there is not a truth which has not been sealed by them at the stake, or the block, or far away on the lofty mountains, where they have been slain by hundreds. It is but a little duty we have to discharge compared with theirs. They were called to maintain the truth when they had to die for it; you only have to maintain the truth when taunt and jeer, ignominious names and contemptuous epithets are all you have to endure for it. What! Do you expect easy lives?...Be ye the pillar and ground of the truth. Let the blood of martyrs, let the voices of confessors, speak to you.  Remember how they held fast the truth, how they preserved it, and handed it down to us from generation to generation; and by their noble example, I beseech you, be steadfast and faithful, tread valiantly and firmly in their steps, acquit yourselves like men, like men of God, I implore you! Shall we not have some champions, in these times, who will deal sternly with heresies for the love of the truth, men who will stand like rocks in the center of the sea, so that, when all others shake, they stand invulnerable and invincible?”

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