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18 Tree and River Landscape

The Pillar & Bulwark of Truth
by Michael L. Patten

At Spirit & Truth Fellowship we believe strongly in the first-century model of the “home church,” that is, a group of Christ’s followers who get together regularly in whatever format they choose, for the purpose of spiritual growth and support. The home church most closely follows the pattern God provided for basic relational interaction, which is the family. God has provided the best foundation for both families and churches, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11).

1 Timothy 3:14 and 15
(14) Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,
(15) if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation (hedraioma) of the truth.

Robertson says of hedraioma: “Probably it means stay or support rather than foundation or ground.” [1] Moffatt translates this word as “bulwark, a defensive wall.” [2] This verse establishes the purpose of the Church in the context of relationship (how people ought to conduct themselves). The Church is to be a pillar where the truth is displayed for others to see and a bulwark defending the integrity and veracity of God’s holy Word. Both the “pillar” and “bulwark” rest upon the foundation, who is Jesus Christ.

God has always related to people through the prism of family. He goes to great lengths developing the narratives of family dynamics to convey truth. Examples in the Old Testament are many and varied. A few poignant examples are: Ruth, Naomi and Boaz; Esther and Mordecai; and David’s family. One of the most dramatic, perhaps, is the contrast between two families in 1 Samuel. The book opens with Elkanah, whose wife Hannah was barren. As Hannah beseeches the Lord earnestly, her prayer is answered and a son is born. In gratitude, Hannah dedicates the boy, Samuel, to the Lord. Even though Hannah is the main character in this drama, we have a snapshot of this family where Elkanah, the husband, is serving as the head.

1 Samuel 1:21
When the man Elkanah went up with all of his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow,

Many times when this record is considered, the heart and commitment of Hannah is the focus, and with good reason. Yet, as we look closely we see both of Samuel’s parents steadfastly ministering to the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:3 tells us that Elkanah went up to worship at Shiloh year after year. It is very obvious that Samuel received a solid foundation of faith from both parents. The family of Eli the priest however stands in stark contrast.

1 Samuel 2:11 and 12
(11) Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the LORD under Eli the priest.
(12) Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD.

God devotes 40 verses to display Samuel’s family, a godly couple who dedicate their only son to the Lord. Then, in one short, terse statement God reveals the tragedy that defines Eli’s family. The consequence of Eli’s failure as a father is dramatic. By the end of chapter four he and his sons are dead and the ark of God is captured by the Philistines. Just as with these two families, every family is defined in significant ways by parents fulfilling their calling to lead their children in God’s ways, or by the tragedy that results from not doing so.

Both aspects of the pillar and bulwark of truth are evident in the life of Samuel. As prophet to Israel, Samuel spoke for God and thus clearly set forth truth from God for Saul, the man who would be king. Later he had to defend the truth by confronting Saul.

1 Samuel 15:1
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.

1 Samuel 15:26
But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”

God has always needed great people like Samuel to set forth, and stand for, the truth. Jesus Christ was the epitome of this, and so it follows that God would make it clear to all of us in Christ’s Body what qualifies a person for leadership in His Church. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to his protégé, Timothy, qualifications for positions of responsibility within the Church are listed in chapter 3. These qualifications for both overseers (episkopos) as well as servants (diakonos, “deacons”) have several qualifying traits common to both. This is quite logical since overseers will have previously proven themselves as ones who serve well.

In effect, Paul’s letter to Timothy provides us with a developmental track of training for church leadership in reverse order, because he covers overseers first, then those who serve in official capacities in the Church. Paul, with authority from Christ (1 Tim. 1:11), is mentoring his replacement, Timothy (1 Tim. 1:18) as to how leaders in the church will be identified from among those serving (1 Tim. 3:1-15). One of the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 for both those who serve, as well as those who oversee the work, is related to the management of their personal families:

1 Timothy 3:12
A deacon (diakonos) must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.

A prerequisite to holding positions of responsibility in any church is managing one’s own family well. This is true of a diakonos, one who serves in a given capacity on behalf of the church, and then later for those who are called to be overseers (episkopos) within the church.

1 Timothy 3:4 and 5
(4) He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
(5) (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

Paul closes out this section on qualifications by reiterating the basic premise of how God views the Church of Jesus Christ in light of the family unit (1 Tim. 3:14 and 15). Both aspects of pillar and bulwark are vital to the health of families and churches. If one is lacking, eventually the other will be in jeopardy. God has given His Word so that we might know what His family looks like. In that picture will be seen a pillar and a bulwark of the truth resting firmly upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, The Rock of Ages.

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