What means does God use to hold up his truth in the world? Is it angels? No. Angels appeared to men on earth only occasionally even in biblical times, and now not at all until Christ’s return. Are individual Christians the pillar and ground of the truth? No, though individual believers do have an important role to play in witnessing of Christ. What about Christian families? They are the building blocks of the church, but they are not the pillar and ground of the truth. What about the civil government? Its calling is to punish evil-doers and reward well-doers (I Peter 2:14), but it is not the pillar and ground of the truth. What of the false church? It is the pillar and ground of the lie, holding up before the world the false gospel as if it were the true gospel.
“The church of the living God”—not Billy Graham crusades, not mission halls, not lay preachers—is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). God is in the church for it is “the house of God” in which He dwells by His Spirit (14). Jesus Christ speaks through faithful teaching and catechising by true ministers of His Word. Thus the church—and the church alone—is the pillar and ground of the truth.
From all of this we learn, first, the dignity of the church. No other body on earth is the pillar and ground of the truth. Without faithful churches the truth of God in the world would fall to the ground. Let us esteem true churches highly! Second, here we have a test for churches. Does a particular congregation or denomination function as the pillar and ground of the truth? Does it hold up all of the truth or most of the truth or some of the truth? Does it hold up lies as if they were the truth? Some churches do so little teaching that it is as if they are pillars which hold up nothing at all! This test, whether or not a church holds up God’s truth faithfully, enables us to determine the purity of a church. Try the spirits, including the churches, by God’s Word (I John 4:1). Believers must discern a truth-upholding church in order to remain members of it or join it. Third, this teaches us the solemn calling of a minister. He must know how he ought to “behave” in a true church which is nothing less than a “pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:14-15). His behavior or conduct here especially includes his preaching. He must preach knowing that there is only one truth and not two. The truth must be preached with certainty and without fear of man. The minister must “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). He must be careful not to mix wood, hay and stubble with the pure truth of God’s Word (I Cor. 3:10-15). Fourth, the calling of elders in a church (which is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth”) includes ensuring that the truth and the truth alone is held up. Thus they must correct the minister if he preaches error and defend him if he is attacked for preaching the truth.