The Church, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (2)

The church’s calling in the world is to uphold the whole truth of God set forth in the 66 books of sacred Scripture, including not only the attributes of God, the wickedness of man, the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s covenant with believers and their seed, etc., but also the Christian’s duty “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with” his God (Mic. 6:8). From I Timothy we learn that the church must testify publicly of the purpose of the law (ch. 1), the role of men and women in the church (ch. 2), the qualifications for special office bearers (ch. 3), the “latter times” (ch. 4), care for widows (ch. 5) and work and covetousness (ch. 6). Moreover, after declaring that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (3:15), the next verse explains the very heart and core of that truth: “the mystery of godliness” formerly hidden but now revealed in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. “And without controversy [i.e. confessedly] great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (3:16). Clearly, declaring God’s truth to the nations centres on proclaiming Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

The church holds up the truth in the world, in part, by preserving and translating the sacred Scriptures. The OT church was the custodian of the truth, for unto the Jews “were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Before the age of printing, members of the NT church engaged in painstaking copying of God’s Word. The NT church, especially in its early and modern eras, has laboured in Bible translation. Think of Jerome and his Latin Vulgate, Luther in the Wartburg toiling on the German Bible, our own William Tyndale and the men who produced the Authorized Version. Of the 6528 or so languages in the world, some two thirds of them still do not have any of the Bible in written form. Though only about 6% of the world’s population speaks these languages, important work in the kingdom of heaven remains to be done in this area.

The church also holds up the truth in the world by interpreting God’s Word, for the Holy Spirit does His work of interpreting His Word in the true church. Church members and office bearers search the Bible daily, comparing Scripture with Scripture. The body labours to understand and expound God’s Word. Thus we have biblical commentaries; Christian books and pamphlets; and Reformed catechisms and confessions.

The church especially holds up the truth in the world by preaching God’s Word, the chief means of grace. The OT prophets preached, Christ preached, the apostles preached, and the church is called to preach. A church must be able to say with Paul that she has “fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19).