Theme: Pointing the World to the Truth
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means that the church is the pillar and foundation of God’s truth, and how we are to live as a result.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:14-16
In yesterday’s study, we saw that when Paul talks about the church as being the pillar and foundation of the truth, he is not saying that the church is therefore the foundation for Christ. It also does not mean that the church is the foundation of the Bible. The Bible is the truth, of course, but the church did not invent the Bible; nor did the church decide which books would be in it and which would not. Some people maintain that. They think that the church held a council to decide what books should go in the Bible and which should not. Well, that isn’t true because it wasn’t mere men who wrote the Bible, but it was God speaking through those men. And the reason the books of the Bible came to be included in the canon was not because the church decided that these books would belong and other books would not belong, but rather because the Holy Spirit, speaking through the books themselves, commended the books to the churches. All the church did was recognize formally those books that were already being used as sacred Scripture.
So if the church is neither the pillar and foundation of Christ nor the Bible, in what sense is this description true of the church? How is it “the pillar and foundation of the truth”? I think what we have to understand at this point is that Paul is simply speaking in terms of the church in the world, and what he is saying is that so far as the world is concerned, the church is the only place where men and women are going to come to know the truth. The reason for this is because God, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen to reveal the most precious truths about salvation there.
Let me explain this, because in this we will see how this comes to bear upon our life and witness. First of all, the church really has the truth, according to this teaching. Now when we say that, of course, we’re not saying that the church is itself the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth. God is the God of truth, and the Scriptures are truth. The church is not the truth, but to say that is not to deny that the church has the truth. We are not saying that the church is the place you go for every form of truth. For example, the church is not the depository of scientific truth or historical truth. Although we certainly believe that when the Bible makes a scientific or historical comment, it is true. But what we are really talking about when we say that the church has the truth is that the church has the revelation of God, which has been given to the church in Scripture. This is what Francis Schaeffer has meant in saying that the church has what he calls “true truth”—that is, the real thing, the most important truth there is. Outside of the church, apart from the revelation of God in the Scripture, concerning our need as sinners and God’s provision for that need in Christ, the world does not have the truth. And because the world does not have the truth, and largely does not pursue that truth, it does not have a sure foundation upon which it can build for its needed salvation and spiritual security.
Not only does the world not have the truth, but today the world is happy to deny that there really is such a thing as truth. If you deny the reality of truth altogether, then you are not really all that concerned about whether you have the truth or not. Let me use an illustration. If you believe in the Holy Grail and you want to find out its location, you search for it earnestly. Year after year you travel all over the world, studying where various people believe it is. You do all this careful research, but still you are never able to locate it. Well, after many years, even decades of searching, you might come to the conclusion that there is no Holy Grail after all.
That’s what the world has done in a certain sense with truth. All of the philosophical systems of this world have been brought forward at one time or another to tell us what the truth is. With all these different approaches, you have some trying to correct others, indicating where one system believes a previous system had neglected some point or misunderstood some piece of information. Since other attempts at arriving at the truth had failed, another option then rises in popularity as people continue their pursuit of truth. After all these failed attempts to discover truth, eventually the world begins to say that maybe there isn’t any such thing as truth, after all. In a simplistic way that is what happened, philosophically.
What mistake do some people make in how they view the relationship between the church and the Bible?
What is the first way we are to understand that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth?
Reflection: How does the world understand truth today?