The Bible teaches that the church is the pillar and ground of truth. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy so that he 'may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15).
The church is pictured like a pillar and ground, upholding and supporting God’s revealed truth. The apostle identifies the church as God's household; he is referring to every true Christian, not only to their leaders. The whole church - all Christians - are collectively the pillar and buttress of truth. Throughout history, God’s people upheld the truth by believing, proclaiming and defending the gospel, by their godly conduct, and sometimes with their blood. That is also our duty today.
Paul calls the church, not the Bible, ‘the pillar and ground’ of truth. Being the Word of God, the Bible is not merely ‘the pillar and ground,’ but the ‘truth’ itself. Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17). In other words, the mission of the church is to faithfully defend and proclaim the teaching of the Bible. It follows that an indispensable mark of the true church is its faithfulness to the gospel. A ‘church’ that has departed from the truth and is teaching another ‘gospel’ is a fallen pillar and sinking ground.
Catholic apologists frequently quote 1 Timothy 3:15 to attack the supreme authority of Scripture and to defend the supposed infallibility of the Roman Catholic magisterium.
Consider well the implications of this verse. You must consciously make a presupposition and draw an important conclusion. If you assume that ‘the church’ refers to the Roman Catholic bishops and not to all Christians, then ‘the truth’ is whatever the Roman magisterium teaches. But if you believe that ‘the truth’ is the gospel message recorded infallibly in the Holy Scriptures, then the lofty claims of the Catholic magisterium must be tested by the Scriptures.
This is my sincere appeal to all Roman Catholics. Test all things, including the teaching of the magisterium. Ask yourself whether the Bible teaches salvation by grace and merit, by faith and works, by Jesus and Mary, as Rome insists; or whether salvation is by grace apart from the merits of our works, through faith in Christ Jesus alone. Ephesians 2:8-10 and Acts 4:12 are a good place to start.
(Gospel e-letter - December 2018)