by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 4 Lincolnton, NC March 20, 2005
15 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
15 but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
There are no textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
I. The Relationship the Church Has With the Truth as a Pillar.
A. What is a "pillar"?
1. The term is used by God in His Word in four contexts.
a. In Galatians 2:9 Paul called "Peter, James, and John" men who "seemed to be pillars".
1) In this context, the argument of Paul is that "his" gospel was embraced as the true Gospel by men whose decision would be accepted as "God's".
2) This means that "pillar" has something to do with being recognized as an underlying authority upon which "Life" will be built.
b. In Revelation 3:12 Jesus promised the "overcomer" of Philadelphia that He would make him a "pillar" in God's temple.
1) In this context, those made into "pillars" never leave the Temple and they have three new "names" etched into their very makeup.
2) The "problem" of Philadelphia was the threat that pressure would make a believer forsake his crown.
3) The "solution" to the problem was that the Holy, True, Key-of-David-Holder, Who has absolute power over opportunity, was willing to maintain the openness of a certain door.
4) The conclusion of these issues seems to be that the "overcomer" was to "overcome" any "despair" tendencies in respect to adhering to the Word of Christ.
5) That becoming a "pillar" is the promised outcome indicates that being a "pillar" means "being absolutely established as one who holds the line" in the Temple. This indicates that "pillar" has the essential identity of being immovably established under certain critical issues so as to be that which keeps those critical concerns from being lost or discarded.
c. In Revelation 10:1 an angel is standing upon feet that look like "pillars of fire". That "pillar" is identified in respect to "feet" signals the fact that the angel's entire ability to accomplish his appointed objective rests upon the strength of his feet. That they are "strong enough" means they are "pillars".
2. The term, then, indicates something that is firmly established under a given over-structure with sufficient strength to maintain that over-structure so that it cannot be destroyed.
B. How is the Church a Pillar of the Truth?
1. First, what is the meaning of "church" in Paul's phrase?
a. It's pretty hard to escape the fact that Paul has been writing for some time about the "local" church.
b. To say that he has suddenly moved into the meaning of "universal" church is to claim something that would need a legitimate "reason" for deciding that.
2. Second, are there other texts in which the "local" church is taught to be an underlying support of the over-structure of the Truth with sufficient strength to guarantee its survival?
a. In the disciplinary passages, God promises that the decision of the "church" will be an accurate reflection of His Truth and that He will act in direct accord with its decision (Matthew 18).
b. In the Galatians passage, Paul illustrates how legitimate men in the leadership of the local church "recognize" what is genuinely "true" and "extend their right hands" to the task of making sure that "truth" is not altered and lost.
3. Third, the only time "truth" is undercut and lost is when the organizations of men that are often referred to as "local churches" are not led by godly elders, but when they are not, the "truth" is the first thing to go.
4. Conclusion: the "church" as a "pillar" of the truth means that the "local church, which is established with godly elders, will establish the Truth in its local setting". Thus, the "truth" will not be confused as long as the "church" is properly constituted.
C. What is this Relationship?
1. The "church" does not "establish" what is true; it only makes sure that what is true is not set aside as untruth.
2. The "church" makes a local community's access to God possible by reason of its "support" of the truth.
3. All ministry that is the actual work of God arises in a local community as a consequence of the "local church's preservation of the truth" in that community.
4. There is NO idea here that the "local church" determines what is true; the entire issue is that what is true is established in a community when there is a local church there. This should make it obvious that that which is not organized by the Word of Truth is not, therefore, a "church".
II. The Relationship the Church Has With the Truth as a "Ground".
A. This is the only place in the New Testament that the word "ground" is found in this particular form.
B. A related form is found in three other places...
1. 1 Corinthians 7:37 indicates that the word has the sense of "fixedness" so that no pressure can budge it.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:58 uses the term the same way.
3. Colossians 1:23, again, uses the word to indicate a steadfastness that will not be altered.
C. The Church as a "ground" of the truth...
1. The word is rather rare even outside of the New Testament, but it seems to be a kind of synonym for "pillar".
2. As such, "ground" might not be the best word to generate understanding for us.
3. Paul seems to be addressing the function of the local church in respect to its relationship to the truth. This "function" in respect to the truth has to do with the impact the local church will have on the presence of the truth in the local area. He has already (with "pillar") addressed the "establishment" of the truth's presence in respect to the issues of confusion. Now (with "ground") he seems to be adding a related issue: the truth's "historical maintenance" over time. It is not enough for a local community to have the confusion erased for a brief time; the Truth must be maintained over time if the Truth is to really be "present". This is the function of the properly organized local church: to maintain an un-confused presence of the Truth in a local community.