Church: The Pillar and Ground of the Truth
1 Timothy 3:14-15 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Coming to faith: Via Catholicism, New Age and Pentecostalism
Our message is focussed on verses 14 and 15 of our reading today. Paul uses an interesting phrase in describing the church. He refers to it as “the pillar and ground of the truth and draws from this passage in Genesis. It’s worth looking at…
“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
Bethel, of course means the house of God. And it was there that after having a rather interesting dream, Jacob erected a pillar of stones, declaring that this place was none other than the house of God. If we are to draw anything from this account it should be 2 things:
Firstly we should have the same reverence and fear that Jacob has for God after this event. And secondly that church should hold the same significance for us as Bethel had for Jacob.
Knowing this, we also should also have the same fear and reverence; especially when it comes to his word. This is the crux of my message today; the importance of God’s word in these last days…given that the church is the pillar and ground of truth; in particular, the truth of God’s word.
4 points today:
Guided in Truth
Conducted in Truth
The Embodiment of Truth
Grounded and Established in Truth
Guided in Truth:
“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know…”
In our text today, Paul writes to Timothy that he hopes to come to him soon but if he is delayed he wants him to know certain things.
He uses the word “that”…which is a shortened form of “in order that” and indicates purpose. Therefore, we immediately see that there is a purpose to the things that he has written.
The word “that” is also a conjunction and links the things which precede these verses; making them all the more important to our message today.
Needless to say, Paul wrote many things in all 14 of his epistles. Things that the churches needed to know; things that he wouldn’t have them ignorant of. Such was the care that he had for all the churches…
We know this from our reading of his epistles. And not just Paul’s epistles but the other apostles also…for it was they who were given the special revelation from which our doctrines are formulated.
Paul speaking about the things that he suffered for the gospel’s sake writes.
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
We can see from this passage, the level of commitment he has towards the churches and in the case of our reading today, the care that he had for Timothy and his ministry.
We can’t underestimate the importance of godly counsel.
“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:22-23)
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
Another important thing to consider is that Paul’s guidance is given not in person but by letter. This, again says something about the importance of imparting guidance and godly wisdom…. It needs to be timely. If Paul had waited until he was able to visit in person, I dare say that the moment would have passed.
And of course, we have also become the beneficiaries of Paul’s letters which make up half of the New Testament.
In the immediate context of our text today, he outlines the qualifications for both an elder [also synonymous with pastor or bishop] and the qualifications of a deacon. Interestingly, I hadn’t deliberately set out to to preach a message regarding a pastor’s credentials [knowing of course that you are seeking a pastor]; yet in the context of my primary message […that is that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth]…having a biblically qualified pastor puts you in good stead.
Automatically, we see that the pastor is a man [the husband of one wife…not a divorcée] and importantly a father. These are important doctrinal considerations. Doctrine matters!!!
But most importantly, Paul outlines a number of other character traits and not academic qualifications. And it is character which influences behaviour and conduct.
In light of this it’s actually worth looking at the passage again….
“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 3:1-13)
This leads to our second point…
Conducted in Truth:
“…that thou mayest know, how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God…”
In our text today, Paul highlights the importance of godly conduct.
In looking at our previous point, we should recognize that amongst these qualities are things that we should all embrace.
Shouldn’t we all aim to be blameless, vigilant, sober, humble, patient, hospitable, mature in our faith, not greedy or covetous, not double-tongued, not argumentative and for the man of God, apt to teach.
Godly conduct, is important because without it the church [as a whole] loses credibility. And we know that the named of God is blasphemed because of the poor conduct of his people. There is only one thing that the Lord puts above his name and that is his word. Both of these are important in the context of today’s message.
In regards to blasphemy it was certainly true of the Jews as we read in
“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Roman 2:24)
And if it was true of the Jews then…it is certainly true [in many respects] of us Gentiles now. We only need to look at the Roman Catholic Church and Hillsong in recent times. People are very quick to point out these two examples, the minute we open our mouths and say that we’re Christians.
Blasphemy was a very serious charge under the law of Moses and was punishable by death in the Old Testament…
Though not punishable by death, its seriousness is still the reason why everyone that names the name of Christ must depart from iniquity.
If truth has a positive impact on behaviour, then error obviously has a negative impact. This is why it is vitally important to understand the dangers of doctrinal errors.
At the end of the day, false doctrine is ultimately idolatry [by simple fact that the idolaters create a false God and another Jesus]. He that maketh a lie is guilty of idolatry and idolatry always leads to immorality.
We see this in the book of Numbers:
“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.” (Numbers 25:1-3)
In this incident [Numbers 25:10-13] we see the priest Phinehas was rewarded for his hard line on sin and his zeal for God.
Even in the New Testament we see this incident referred to as “the doctrine of Balaam”: as Jesus writes to the church in Pergamos.
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Revelation 2:14)
Paul is known for setting out set order and standards in his epistles. We see it particularly in 1 Corinthians regarding Lord’s Supper.
Paul begins by exposing certain divisions which in turn led to certain behaviours. Interestingly, the word for divisions is the same word from which we get the word heresy.
Though, from a positive perspective, what we do know about heresies is this:
“For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1Corinthians 11:19)
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-31 we have Paul’s prescription for this ordinance of Lord’s Supper.
He establishes the fact that it was commanded by Christ as a remembrance and not a sacrament which adds to your salvation; in order to proclaim his death and give thanks “until he come”.
He establishes the fact that it is a solemn occasion and not an occasion to gorge yourself and get drunk. As such, the elements which represent Christ’s body and blood should not contain leaven or be fermented; things associated with sin.
He establishes the fact that it is to be partaken of by believers only [those who are able to discern the Lord’s body given as a personal atonement for their sin].
This is just one example of the divine order that Paul and the other apostles have laid out for us. The bible contains many. We know of a certainty that God is not the author of confusion. Therefore we can be sure that he has put in place a divine order for us to follow…and for good reason.
You only need to spend a short amount of time on YouTube to see some of the shenanigans that go on in churches today. And whilst some of these are blatant: others are not so blatant. We’re told that it’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyard. We know that grievous wolves will enter in among us, not sparing the flock [Acts 20:29] and so we need to be vigilant and discerning.
We also need to be:
Humble…knowing that pride comes before destruction.
Open to correction, asking the Lord to search us and try us to see if there be any wicked way in us.
Walk in truth…because it is commanded of God
Fear God…because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
But above all, know that a life and a church that is truly founded on the word of God will conduct itself accordingly.
The Embodiment of Truth:
“…which is the church of the living God,…”
If we consider that the church [as described in our text] is no less than “the house of God”. And if we consider that church is more formally described in our text as “the church of the living God”, the focus of any ministry and especially the establishment of a church, ought to reflect that. There ought to be a reverence and a godly fear that governs everything we do in ministry. And in so doing our focus would be on Christ [who is God]…and who is the source of truth because he is the TRUTH.
There is no coincidence in the fact that Jesus is referred to as the WORD and as such Jesus cannot be separated from his word.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS THE EMBODIMENT OF TRUTH.
Both Jesus and his word possess the same qualities and character; in particular truth, holiness and perfection. Which is why we read in 1 John “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5
The reason Jesus came was to bear witness to the truth [John 18:37]
The reason Jesus came was to destroy the works of the devil who was a liar from the beginning [1 John 3:8]
As believers our relationship with Christ should reflect our relationship with the truth and vice-verse. And our love for Jesus should be reflected in our love for his word…his word is truth.
The greatest thing that we can do in regards to our Christian faith is to cultivate a love for the truth.
BECAUSE TRUTH MATTERS
David infers this twice in Psalm 119… a psalm which is almost entirely devoted to the word of God.
“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104)
“Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128)
In having a love for the truth we should equally have a hatred for falsehood. We need to be able to recognize both…
Which is where discernment is vitally important…if truth is due north, then discernment is the internal compass that points you in the right direction.
Discernment is something which is sadly lacking [even devalued] in the wider church. Yet, the book of Hebrews not only holds discernment in high esteem but also indicates from where it is derived.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14)
I think this text speaks for itself. If we ever hope to be discerning Christians, and mature in our faith, we must constantly be in the word.
In a truly biblical church Jesus is the focus of the ministry and he receives all the honour and all the glory. Nothing dishonours God more than a church filled with babes that ought to have matured. Especially when his divine power has given us all things necessary for life and godliness.
In regards to honouring God:
Jesus warns against lip-service:
He asks the question “Why do you call me Lord and not do the things I say?”
He reminds us that it is possible to honour God with our mouths and have our hearts far from him.
He warns us against being hypocrites and white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.
Those things are true of the apostate modern church and we see this represented by church of the Laodiceans.
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:14-19)
Interestingly the word “Laodicea” means to be led by the people or the laity. It is characterised by a church and a pastor that desires to please man and not God. It is the seeker friendly church that allows people sit in their pews, comfortable in their sin. It is the church which hasn’t walked circumspectly but has fallen asleep. There is only one remedy for this type of church or individual…
THE LIGHT OF GOD’S WORD
Tragically this church is also described thus:
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
This is the church in which for all intent and purpose Jesus is front and centre…but in reality is standing on the outside and looking in… knocking and waiting for the door of people’s hearts to open unto him.
This isn’t a church that we want to be associated with or known for. But rather [as all Christian churches agree] the church of Philadelphia.
What distinguishes this church is that it is a church which:
KEPT GOD’S WORD
And for a reward…its people become the pillars of the heavenly temple.
Philadelphia incidentally translates loosely as “the city of brotherly love”
And whilst we think we know what love is
And whilst we tend to associate it with emotions
Christian love or charity as it is referred to in 1 Corinthians 13 runs deeper than that….
For the purpose of our message we see that:
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;” (1Corinthians 13:6)
Truth is an integral part of love. Love without truth is hypocrisy.
Again, the thing that underpins this is our relationship with the Lord. Each and every one of us is responsible to maintain their relationship with him.
Obviously the position that he holds in our lives is incumbent on our relationship with him. We know that he ought to be first in our lives…the first and second commandments cement this fact:
If we were to simply sum this up it would be to:
Love God and
Keep yourselves from idols…
Again the key to maintaining our relationship with the Lord is to spend time in the word and time with him in prayer…
Grounded and Established in Truth:
“…the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Our text today, continues by saying that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. And this is how a church ought be built and established.
The Lord of course is the master builder and Jesus confirms this with this example:
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49)
Jesus describes the truth of God’s as a foundation and in obeying his word we build an house [or in this case a church] which is able to withstand the storms of life. In fact, if we don’t build on the word of God and obey it, that which we do build is truly short-lived “..immediately it fell; and the ruin of it was great.”
A church has no ability to prosper and grow and function and minister to its congregation as it ought unless it it truly founded on the word of God.
The church exists for two reasons only…preaching the gospel and making disciples who will go out and do the same. Think of the church as a hospital for sick souls [afflicted by the disease of sin]. It stands to reason that those who have been made well will naturally go out and tell the world that they’ve found the cure for what ails all of mankind.
The church of course is referred to as the body of Christ and this sums up ministry within the body.
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Notice that the ministry process begins by speaking the truth in love. In order to get well, you have to admit that you are sick. And the only medicine that works is the truth of God’s word. Jesus is the Great Physician
Unfortunately, it is possible that a Church can lose its ability to minister to one another. And the rot starts when a church begins to accept error.
Contrast the previous description with the description of an apostate church:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;”
I don’t imagine that this is a church you’d like to be part of.
If the truth of God’s word is seen as a foundation…
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
If the foundation of God’s word is destroyed, we should expect dire consequences. The Lord is big on foundations knowing that we build from the foundation up… In 1 Corinthians chapter 3 we read: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 3:11)
True, the Lord promised to build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail. This doesn’t mean that this effort won’t be without opposition. History tells us: That all who would live godly in Christ would suffer persecution. We need only to look at Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Of course, history also tells us that persecution of this kind only served to cause the true church to grow and multiply. The real danger comes from within.
Just as cancer and auto-immune disease destroys the physical body, so does heresies and divisions. This is why Paul was quick to warn the congregations to mark those who cause divisions; who twist the word of God and teach things that are contrary to the scriptures.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;” (2Timothy 2:15-17)
When it comes to building and church growth:
Of course, the modern church tends to make the mistake of measuring success and God’s blessing according to the size of their congregation. We all know that’s not true.
I sometimes wonder whether modern Christianity is building a church or the Tower of Babel.
Even in Jesus’ time the people boasted about the temple…and what do we see? We see Jesus clear the temple and declare it to be a den of thieves and not a house of prayer.
The 7 letters to the 7 churches in Revelation are testimony to the fact that you can have a false perception of yourself and see yourself in ways that the Lord does not…
Ephesus had all discernment and sound doctrine but had left their first love.
Smyrna on the other hand were poor but in God’s eyes were rich.
Sardis had a reputation or a name for being a church which was alive but in God’s eyes was dead.
The modern “Laodicean” church believes itself to be rich and in need of nothing but in God’s eyes, wretched, miserable, poor, naked and blind.
James hits the nail on the head, when it comes to looking the goods…when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk.
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26-27)
There’s a lot in this that can be expounded but for the purpose of today’s message, I would draw your attention to the admonition “…and to keep himself unspotted from the world”
We’re called not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Therefore and ultimately the church should look markedly different to the world. But unfortunately and more and more we are seeing prophecy being fulfilled and the church looking more and more like the world.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2Timothy 3:1-5)
Be reminded that this is clearly speaking about the church in the last days and paints a very bleak picture of truly godless institution…
If we compare this with Romans chapter 1 we see a very similar picture of the state of the human heart that completely rejects God.
My encouragement and exhortation to you today is this…
Don’t compromise on the truth. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of being lovers of truth.
Truth matters…Doctrine matters
You already know the wholesale apostasy that exists in the modern church today. You already know that we live in times in which people won’t endure sound doctrine; and this makes this point vitally important.
In knowing this we are all held accountable….accountable to warn the wicked lest we have blood on our hands. This is what it means to be salt and light. Salt that loses its savour is good for nothing.
There’s a desperate need for biblical churches; places of safety. Places that don’t teach or encourage doctrines of devils or that have been given over to seducing spirits.
Therefore, I say this not only for your own sakes but also for the wider body of Christ and the community at large.
From my own personal testimony:
Once my family and I had become aware of the many false teachings that were being taught in the churches that we had been involved in…we knew we couldn’t stay. We also knew that we needed somewhere safe to go.
No doubt there are and will be others in similar situations that need a safe haven in order to escape the wind of false doctrines that might have otherwise shipwrecked their faith.
I pray that the Lord will continue to add to your numbers. But do be vigilant and mark those that cause divisions. Be ready to correct those who bring doctrines which are contrary to the scriptures; gently at first but remembering that we are not obliged to accept error.
“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10-11)
Above all remain in God’s word which guarantees a fruitful ministry.
Remembering that without Christ you can do nothing…
Remembering: except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
We at Hope Baptist are persuaded of better things for you than to go down the path of apostasy. My prayer is that you: “…not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)
God bless you all