God’s Priorities for His Churches: Truth (2)
These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I writeso that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3.14, 15
“No ordinary enhancement is derived from this appellation. Could it have been described in loftier language? Is anything more venerable, or more holy, than that everlasting truth which embraces both the glory of God and the salvation of men? Were all the praises of heathen philosophy, with which it has been adorned by its followers, collected into one heap, what is this in comparison of the dignity of this wisdom, which alone deserves to be called light and truth, and the instruction of life, and the way, and the kingdom of God? Now it is preserved on earth by the ministry of the Church alone. What a weight, therefore, rests on the pastors, who have been entrusted with the charge of so inestimable a treasure!”
- John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Timothy
On, by, in, and for the truth
In a time when lies, deceit, and false worldviews are daily promulgated, embraced, and followed, the world needs a place it can look to for truth. This is the Church’s role – or at least, it should be.
In the mind of Christ, as evidenced in the writings of the apostles, truth is to the church as water is to a lake. No water, no lake; little water, or water that has been compromised, and you have an unhealthy lake. Similarly, no truth, no Church; little truth, or compromised truth, and there you will find, regardless of its size in numbers, an unhealthy church.
The Church and local churches as microcosms of the Church in all places and times, are the pillar and ground of truth. Every local church should be a solid rock of truth in its community. Everything the church does, and all that it teaches, and every way that it does what it does and teaches what it teaches must be done in truth, the truth that is in Jesus, as He is revealed in His Word.
We jeopardize the church’s health and compromise its role in the world when we do anything in the church which does not have the ring of truth, or when we set the truth of Scripture aside to do something other than what Scripture prescribes in our efforts to build Christ’s church.
A foundation mixed with some truth and some “good ideas” from worldly practice is a foundation that will not stand firm when the tremors of changing times roll through. Pillars that are not built and gilded with truth, but are comprised and adorned with the gewgaws and gimmicks of the world, cannot be relied upon to bear the weight of glory.
How confident are you that everything in your church is done on, in, by, and for the truth that is in Jesus? And are you doing everything the truth of Scripture prescribes to ensure that your church will grow as the Lord intends, and not merely in numbers?
These are questions of the utmost importance if our churches are to fulfill the priorities God has established for them.
The warp and woof of the church
We do not have to look very hard to see how important truth was to the apostles as a primary indicator of church health. Consider these few insights from their writings:
The basis for everything we do in ministry must be truth (2 Cor. 4.2; 6.7; 7.14; 12.6; 2 Tim. 2.15; 2 Pet. 1.12); and truth must be the aim of our lives and ministries (2 Cor. 13.8). We are only truly serving Jesus when we serve “for the truth of God” (Rom. 15.8). In our ministries and lives, we must not exchange the truth of God for anything, lest we begin to descend the slippery slope of the lie (Rom. 1.25).
The great struggle pastors and church leaders face is to keep the church from turning away, or being turned away, from the truth (2 Tim. 3.8; 4.4; Tit. 1.4). We will all be judged by the truth in all aspects of our lives (Rom. 2.2; 3.4). The truth we need is in Jesus, and in His Gospel and salvation (Rom. 9.1; Jn. 14.6; Eph. 4.21; Gal. 2.5; Eph. 1.13; Col. 1.5; 2 Thess. 2.13; 2 Tim. 2.25; 1 Tim. 2.4); and obedience to the Gospel will find us walking in the truth (Gal. 5.7, 8). The truth of God’s Word sanctifies us, and it is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (1 Thess. 2.13; Jn. 17.17; Eph. 5.9; Jms 3.14; 1 Pet. 1.21). We must live and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4.15; 1 Jn. 3.18). Truth is the foundational weapon in our battle against spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6.14). Furthering and establishing the truth is thus the aim and mission of the church.
Truth is the warp and woof of the local church, and when any essential thread of truth is neglected, substituted for, or rejected as inconvenient or too demanding, the tapestry of God’s church begins to unravel and lose strength. Any church built on a foundation that is not wholly and purely one of truth, and that seeks to build itself to mature stature using pillars that are not what the truth prescribes, is a church that will never realize the growth or fulfill the priorities God intends.
The shame of the church
Indeed, what a weight rests on the shoulders of those who are called to build that church as the pillar and foundation of truth! According to the apostle Paul, anything done in the church apart from truth is shameful and crafty, and adulterates the Word of God, and is to be renounced in favor of the truth: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4.1, 2).
While others were using the Word to affirm false and misleading ideas, or to ingratiate selfish affections or lead in ways other than what Scripture commends, Paul held to the truth, and appealed to the consciences of his readers. This, he knew, was pleasing to God, and this alone could encourage and inform right action, and expose, indict, and suppress wrong ideas and ways.
Like Paul, we must stand in the truth always, though it run contrary to the thinking of every man (Rom. 3.4), offend sensitive and self-centered affections, or prescribe ways of working that do not readily appeal. Only the truth will suffice to bring us into the pleasure of God, and to build His churches according to His priorities, for true growth in Jesus Christ.
Pastoral Hope Initiative
Prayer for Revival
“By doing all things in the light, we become the light itself, so that it ‘shines’ before others,which is the peculiar quality of light. And if we recognize Christ as ‘sanctification,’ in whom every action is steadfast and pure, let us prove by our life that we ourselves stand apart, being ourselves true sharers of his name, coinciding in deed and not in word with the power of his sanctification.”
- Gregory of Nyssa, (335-394) On Perfection (Ancient Christian Commentary Series, InterVarsity Press)
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.