In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul said that the Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” What is the Church, and why is it the Pillar and Ground of the Truth?
What Is the Church?
The word “Church” is a translation of the Greek ekklesia. This word whenever used in the context of God’s people always means a sanctified and separated people called out for God’s holy purpose. The idea of separation is intrinsic to this word. Christians have been called out of this world of sin and Satan to become citizens of the kingdom of God and of Christ. A Church is no Church if it does not practise the biblical doctrine of separation (2 Cor 6:14–7:1).
Now, the Church is not a building in the literal sense. The Church is not made of wood or stone, but flesh and blood. In fact, in the days of the Apostle Paul, up till the 4th century, there were no church buildings (with steeples and crosses). The buildings called “churches” only came into existence in the 4th century when Christianity found favour with the emperor Constantine. Prior to that, the Church was much hated by the world, and severely persecuted. In order to worship peacefully, Christians had to meet secretly in homes or in caves; “(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb 11:38).
Paul described the Church here as “the house of God”. The “house of God” is often used in the Old Testament to refer to the temple—the physical building in Jerusalem where the Israelites worshipped God and offered their sacrifices. It is a holy place. In the New Testament, the house of God is no longer a place but a people, a holy people. The Church is the house of the living God, and not a temple for dead idols. Peter said, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. … But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:5, 9).
Since the Church is a spiritual house of God, it must be filled with people who are not of this world—not carnal and wicked, but godly and Christlike. The Church must never become a community centre (for all kinds of secular activities), a country club (exclusive and elitist, with members-only privileges), an entertainment hub (full of rock and roll), a fashion expo (a flashy parade of the flesh), or an integrated resort (“a den of thieves”). It must ever be the salt and light of the world that God meant it to be (Matt 5:13, 14).
What Is the Truth?
“[God’s] word is truth.” (John 17:17). The word “truth” (aletheia) here is found in the original with the definite article. This indicates that Paul was not speaking about truth as a quality, but truth as the object of faith. The object of our faith is The Truth itself, ie, The Word of God, The Whole Counsel of God, The Holy Scriptures, The 66 Books of the Bible.
The Truth is under tremendous assault today. People in general no longer know what truth is any more. Like Pilate, they are asking, “What is truth?” Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6), and He says, “for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37). But the world today is like Pilate; they do not hear the Voice of God because they do not belong to the Truth and is outside the realm of Truth, and hence do not know and cannot understand the Truth of God and His Word. When the Truth is preached and taught, they do not believe or receive it, but rather attack it.
The Truth today is attacked not only by those outside the Church, but also by those within the Church. The Truth for instance is attacked by atheists who deny that God created the whole universe out of nothing by the power of His Word in six literal 24-hour days. The atheists replace the biblical doctrine of creation with their big-bang theory of evolution. What is truly disturbing is that those who profess to be Christians are agreeing with this theory, calling it science or scientific. To them, science trumps faith. Science is for the intelligent, faith is for the weak-minded. So, for Christianity to be intellectually respectable, they mix the Word with the World and advocate a theistic evolution, ie God created the world through evolution. They say Genesis 1-3 is myth, not history.
The attack from within continues. In the name of “Science” so called, some professing Christians claim that the Bible contains mistakes. And so they deny the Bible is divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant. They say the Bible is a good book but not God’s Word. They interpret God’s Word just like any ordinary book. They question its origins and authorship, its history, geography, and theology. They think after this manner: “If the Bible does not agree with what I can discover and observe through my own reasoning and experiments, the Bible must be wrong.” Paul has strong words for such, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; … Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:18–22).
Another attack from within the Church has come from evangelicals and fundamentalists who deny that the Bible today is 100% perfect without any mistake. They say the Bible was only infallible and inerrant in the past when it was first given, but after all these thousands of years, the Bible we now have is no longer as infallible and inerrant as it once was because all the manuscripts or copies we have today are corrupted in one way or other. God just did not preserve the Scriptures in the way that He should. It is just too bad. They deny perfect preservation.
But this is not what the Bible says about itself. The Psalmist says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Ps 12:6, 7). Jesus Himself said, “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt 5:18), “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt 24:35). We believe God has preserved all of His inspired words to the last jot and tittle as He promised.
Why should Jesus be so concerned that all of His Words to the very last letter and syllable should never disappear but be always available and accessible? It is because “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps 19:7); “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Prov 30:5); “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4); “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:16, 17). There is no better reason.
It is thus no wonder that God warns against any tampering of His Word, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev 22:18, 19).
In these days of great scepticism and questioning of the Scriptures even by those who profess to be members of the Church, how can we tell the true Church from the false? The answer is simple: The Church that is faithful and true is the Church that is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth. The word for “pillar” is stulos which means “a supportive column”. It speaks of firm or strong support. The word for “ground” is hedraioma which means “foundation”. It has the idea of strength, steadfastness, safety, fixedness, and certainty. A strong pillar is not enough, the foundation on which the pillar stands must also be equally strong and unmovable. In other words, the Church cannot afford to be flexible or fickle, unsure or uncertain concerning the Truth. It is not enough for the Christian to believe the gospel and nothing else; he must sincerely believe and be deeply grounded in all the fundamentals of the Christian Faith (Matt 28:18–20).
The Church is called to be an unwavering upholder of the Truth. When the Truth comes under the weight of enemy attack, the Church must rise up to uphold the Truth so that it will not fall or fail. In the first four centuries, the Early Church upheld the truth of the perfect deity and perfect humanity of Christ in one Person when it came under attack by the Docetists, Ebionites, Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, Eutychians, and other heretics. In the 16th century, the Reformation Church defended the truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone against the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation by human effort and church traditions. In the 20th century, the Fundamental Church upheld the truth of the verbal and plenary inspiration (VPI) of the Scriptures against the destructive views of Liberalism, Rationalism and Neo-Evangelicalism. In the 21st century, when the doctrine of the verbal and plenary preservation (VPP) of the Scriptures is under attack, we find a remnant of Baptist, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches from all over the world believing in and defending this good old doctrine of VPP against Postmodernism, Neo-Deism, and Neo-Fundamentalism. God did not suffer Himself to be without witness.
May all Bible-believing and Bible-defending churches today fulfil its divine call to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” in the midst of rampant apostasy and treachery in these very last days before the Lord returns. “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Cor 13:8). JK
Tribute from an Old Timer
True Life B-P Church is important to me because it reminds me of the great contributions made by its founding pastor, Rev Dr Timothy Tow.
Way back in the 60s, I was a regular worshiper and young member of Life Church, Prinsep Street. I still remember every Saturday, I would go to Rev Tow’s apartment at Kim Pong Road to help produce the newsletter.
In those days, Rev Tow was a great defender of the faith. He, together with likeminded church leaders and under the banner of the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), stood against the World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization that had departed from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The WCC was pro modernism. For the ICCC, the battle cry then was “for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:9). E H Eio
We would like to convey our thanks to Pastor and the Session for the many years of nurturing, friendship and opportunity for service in True Life BP Church. It is unfortunate that we are prevented from worshipping together but we trust God to bring us back in His time. Tiong Peng & Suzanne
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