by Mike Ratliff
14 Ταῦτά σοι γράφω ἐλπίζων ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐν τάχει· 15 ἐὰν δὲ βραδύνω, ἵνα εἰδῇς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 NA27)
14 These I write to you hoping to come to you quickly; 15 but if I delay, that you may know how one ought to conduct oneself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
When Paul wrote his first epistle to Timothy that we call “1 Timothy,” Timothy was the pastor of the Ephesian church. Ephesus was home to the pagan temple to the goddess Diana or Artemis, which is considered on of the seven wonders of the ancient world. One of its features was it pillars. It contained 127 pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. Not only did each pillar (στῦλος) act as a tribute to the king who donated it, all of them together, obviously, had the function of holding up the immense structure of the roof. Therefore, Timothy and his flock at Ephesus would have certainly grasped Paul’s analogy. What exactly was he telling the church about its true mission?
Over the last few weeks we have been inundated with a very ugly attack by men who are very confused about two things. The first is that, to them, the truth is fluid, not set. That means truth is relative, therefore, doctrine becomes something like modeling clay or Silly Putty that can be applied as one sees fit to not be offensive to anyone. Read, Political Correctness. The second thing they are confused about is the Church’s role as the στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας, the pillar and support of the truth. Let’s look at these words.
The first word, στῦλος (stylos) is a pillar. That is very straightforward. It serves one basic purpose even though it may be decorated and looked upon as something else. It exists to hold up a structure. Paul links it with “καὶ” (and) ἑδραίωμα (hedraiōma), which is a buttress or support. It is not the foundation and Paul is not saying the Church is the foundation of the truth because the Church did not invent the truth. Instead, the Church is the mainstay, the prop, the support, the buttress, the propagator of the truth. While the pillars in the temple of Diana were a testimony to the error of pagan false religion, the church is to be testimony to God’s truth.
Therefore, when error is being propagated and called truth in Christ’s name, we MUST NOT remain silent, but make sure that the truth be made known to the Body of Christ instead. Even though some leaders of the Gospel Coalition were upset that many of us were pointing out the truth about ER2 and it aftermath, that is the function of the Church. We are the upholders of the truth. To stay quiet in the face of what if false to maintain a modicum of peace is hypocritical and the opposite of what we are called to do.
The truth as we see in the imagery Paul gives us here shows us that our mission is the exact opposite of what is loudly proclaimed in most of today’s churches to be “user-friendly,” “purpose-driven,” and “seeker-sensitive.” We are to obey God and just preach the truth.
Soli Deo Gloria!