Theme: A Loss of a Foundation
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
Earlier I mentioned Francis Schaeffer, who has given the clearest expression of how our world thinks about truth. He’s pointed out that through the influence of Hegel and his dialectic, there has really been a relativizing of truth and philosophical thought. This has led us to the present state, where people not only deny truth, but seek in various ways to undermine whatever pretensions of truth there may be. Hegel said that history operates according to a certain pattern. First, there is what he called the thesis. Somebody says something, which results in a formulation of thought. But of course, it’s not perfect; there are problems with it, or things that it cannot account for. Consequently, another system is put forth over against it, which is called an antithesis. These two competing ideas struggle against each other, historically. Eventually, as a result of this conflict, you have a consensus that is reached between them, what Hegel called the synthesis. This, then, becomes the new thesis, which brings about another antithesis, resulting in a new synthesis. And on it goes, moving from thesis to antithesis to synthesis, and so on. Hegel believed that all of history moved according to this dialectical pattern.
So according to this idea, there’s no what Schaeffer would call “true truth.” There’s no foundation upon which you can really build. Instead, all we have is that which is true for me and that which is true for you, and that which is true now and that which will be true tomorrow. Truth is different from person to person, and it changes over time. The world has fallen into a position in our day where it really doubts that such a thing as truth exists. Everything can get boiled down to mere opinion or preference, with everyone believing whatever each one chooses and living for the moment, doing whatever produces the maximum amount of pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness.
Into this denial of truth comes the church of Jesus Christ, not with anything of its own but with the revelation of God—this precious deposit that is ours in Scripture. It proclaims to the world that here, in the Bible, is the truth. If you would build a life that is solid and will stand the buffetings of the temptations and the troubles of this world, come and build upon this foundation because this is the place where you’re going to find it. You’re not going to find it anywhere else. When we begin to talk about the church being the foundation of the truth, certainly this is what we have in mind—that the church has the truth because God has given it to her in Scripture.
Now, secondly, the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth in the sense that it is by the church that the truth is made known to the world. What we’re talking about here is the missionary mandate given to the church to take that which Jesus Christ taught and go to its neighborhoods, its communities, and even to other nations. Let me just suggest at this point that when Paul says that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, he’s perhaps thinking of this when he uses the word, “pillar.” As I read it in this context, I think what he probably means is that the pillar holds up the roof, and the foundation holds up the pillar.
But there is something else that may also be going on here. It’s quite possible he’s using it in another sense because if you look up the word “pillar” in a concordance, you’ll find that by far the vast majority of the uses of the word are not in the sense of a pillar that holds up a roof, but rather a pillar that is erected as a memorial or testimony to some great thing that God has done. If Paul does have this idea in mind, he would be saying that it is not merely that the church has the truth, which is the foundation upon which the world can build; but the church also has the task of holding that truth up in a visible way.
Foundations are down under the ground. You don’t see the foundation of a building. And the bigger the structure, the deeper the foundation has to be. But a pillar isn’t down in the ground; a pillar is up where people can see it. Perhaps Paul is saying that as Christians this our calling. We’re called to hold up this truth. Yes, we have it. We have been given it by God in revealing himself to us in the Bible. But we are not merely to possess it. We to hold it up so men and women can see it, because if they don’t see it through your testimony, they’re not going to see it or find it in any other way.
What is Hegel’s historical dialectic? How does it affect Francis Schaeffer’s idea of “true truth”?
What is the second way in which the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth?
Application: What does it mean to hold up the truth, and what are some ways you are to do this?