It's shaping up to be quite the busy week. The most senior pastor and I are heading out with the college students this Friday for a week in Colorado, spent working, studying, and skiing. It's amazing how much planning goes into trips like these; it's really a gift of Dave's to organize and set these kind of things up. I'm a little frightened that I'm going to have to do it on my own someday; but I guess we all grow up.
Church planting update: things are going quite well in our Wednesday night core group. Each week we spend time studying the Scripture's teaching on the church, training in evangelism and outreach, praying, and planning/brainstorming together.
Last week we studied 1 Timothy 3:15 where Paul almost brashly proclaims that the church is the pillar of the truth. It almost seems like God made a mistake; surely He should have entrusted something as important as the truth to someone or something other than the church. But even thinking that, even my surprise that God would choose the church to be the foundation and the herald of the church, shows how little I believe Scripture's promises of Christ's bride. The gates of hell can't stand against us. Really?
Very helpful that Paul is, though. He doesn't just make the proclamation and leave us wondering what to do with it. The context of v. 15 is Paul's concern that Timothy understand the nature of the church in order to direct her everyday life rightly. Consequently, both letters to Timothy contain valuable help us in being a faithful pillar:
- Most of 1 Timothy 3 is concerned with the qualifications of those who would lead the church. Lest anyone look at these lists and see legalism or severe strictness, Paul then lands the truth that we are the pillar of truth. If we are God's chosen method of preserving and presenting the truth, the first we way we do this is by electing and ordaining faithful leaders.
- 1 Timothy 6:3,4 teach us what to do when someone comes along and begins teaching something contrary to the doctrines of grace. Simply put, the church is a faithful pillar when she practices church discipline, especially upon teachers of false doctrine. This is why we're Presbyterian: without the protection of the other elders, it would be frighteningly easy for me or other preachers to lead whole churches away from the truth. We need men guarding the people from a bad pulpit and guarding the pulpit from a fickle people.
- In 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul exhorts Timothy to follow the pattern of sound words that Timothy received from Paul. To be a faithful pillar, we must follow the pattern of sound words handed down over the centuries in the church. This indeed begins and ends with Scripture, but we ought to be conversant with the great creeds and theologians of the past. Through biblical and systematic theology, we hold fast to the pattern of the words, not just the words themselves.
- Paul proclaims in 2 Timothy 2:19 that God's foundation will always stand. What is that foundation? The sovereign, saving knowledge of the Lord. Or, to put it in more theological and explosive language, the foreknowledge and election of God. The church is a faithful pillar when she recognizes the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners, that sinners will only be saved when they are elect from all eternity to eternal life.
- 2 Timothy 3:16 stands out as the New Testament's most important verse on Biblical revelation, that all Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for every spiritual need. To be a faithful pillar, we must hold passionately, submissively, boldly, and steadfastly to the Word of God. We must be people who know the stories of Scripture, who love to memorize it and sing it, who dread going to bed and realizing we haven't soaked in God's Word that day.
- Finally, in 2 Timothy 4:3-5, Paul commands Timothy to be faithful in his work (as a preacher and evangelist), despite the distractions and divisions that may and will come. Paul promises that a time would come when people only want to hear preaching which makes them feel good (every generation has its Joel Osteen), and when people will wander away into myths (every generation has its Da Vinci Code). What are we to do when people turn against us, turn against the preaching of the Word? Continue faithfully in our calling, enduring suffering for the glory of God.