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 NA28)
14 These things I write to you hoping to come to you quickly, 15 but if I delay, 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 buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 a personal translation from the NA28 Greek text)
As we have discussed countless times on this blog, the visible church in our time has taken on a “mission” that is different than the one assigned to it by God. Parts of it have the mission of being “user-friendly” while other parts are “purpose-driven,” and others are “seeker-sensitive.” None of that is what the Church is to be about. I had a discussion not long ago with a professing Christian who used to live in Orange County in California and while there attended Rick Warren’s church. He told me that he had read my objections to how Rick Warren and his followers handle the Gospel, but his objection to how we came to that conclusion consisted of the charge that we had overlooked the very obvious fact that Rick Warren and all those who follow him and what he does “do not believe that what they are doing is mishandling the Gospel.” I was somewhat taken aback by that statement. How could that be in any way shape or form a valid apologia to simply stated Biblical Truth? The answer, “They are sincere in what they were doing so it has to be okay.”
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Paul was writing to Timothy who was at that time the pastor of the Ephesian church. Paul had left him there to deal with several problems that had arisen. The phrase in the passage above that the Church is “the pillar and buttress of the truth” would have been readily understood by the Ephesian believers of that day. Why?
The temple of the goddess Diana (Aremis), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was located in Ephesus. It contained 127 pillars. Each of them was the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. Each pillar (στῦλος) acted as a tribute to the king who donated it. However, the obvious function of the pillars was that of holding up the immense structure of the roof. In the passage above, Paul says that the church’s mission is to hold up the truth.
However, Paul adds something else, καὶ ἑδραίωμα, which I translated as and (the) buttress. Some modern translations such as the NIV get this wrong in rendering it as “foundation.” The Church is not the foundation of the truth, but it is the “stay, prop or support” of it which is what buttress is. The Church is the mainstay, the prop, the support, the propagator of the truth. The Church is to be a testimony to God’s truth. That is its mission, its very reason for existence.
Now, doesn’t this explain why such a large part of the visible church has become indistinguishable from the world? They do not uphold the truth because they have compromised it. We cannot do that. It all begins with our stance on Sola Scripture and the Sovereignty of God my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!