Crossfunction: 1 Timothy 3: What is the "pillar and bullwark of truth"?

Monday, May 16, 2005

1 Timothy 3: What is the "pillar and bullwark of truth"?

My Protestant brothers and sisters rightly have a great love for Scripture and revere it as the Word of God. But if, as many of them claim, Scripture and Scripture alone is to be our sole rule of faith, then why doesn't Scripture anywhere say so?

Does Paul say that the "pillar and bullwark of truth" is Scripture? No. He describes "the church of the living God" as "the pillar and bullwark of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15 RSV)

Does this place the Church above Scripture? No, but it places the Church and Scripture in proper perspective. Elsewhere Paul says, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thessalonians 2:15 RSV)

Paul's perspective -the Bible perspective- is that we have received the Gospel through men appointed by God, and their message has been transmitted to us by both written and oral means. The message is not authoritative simply because it is written down, but because it is of apostolic authority. When Paul and the other apostles speak, their spoken words weigh as much as when they write.

The Gospel and the whole message of Christ are transmitted to us not exclusively by the written word, but through the living Church in virtue of apostolic authority, through the laying on of hands.

The Church had this apostolic foundation and leadership in the first century, because Jesus founded it that way. It needs and continues to enjoy that same foundation today, because truth is ever under attack and man is ever in need of a visible teacher, sent by God, whose authority comes from God through the apostles.

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