1 Timothy 3:14-15
Guarding the Deposit
Ask any evangelical what the purpose of the Church is and he will tell you to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or he might say that the purpose of the local church is to equip the saints to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, I wouldn’t disagree with any of this; however, in the passage before us, Paul lays out an equally important task of the Church. Indeed, if the Church fails at this task, she has no gospel to preach.
The Apostle tells Timothy that he plans to visit him at Ephesus but that if for some reason he delays, “you 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.” Did you hear that? The Church is a pillar of the truth, and a buttress. In other words, a task of the local church—indeed an essential task of the local church—is to support, hold up, and guard the truth, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church must guard the integrity of this deposit with her very life. And how does she do this? By preaching and teaching the pure, unadulterated word of God. To the extent that she compromises that holy word and gospel, to that extent she preaches a false gospel—a crime which she has committed too many times in her history. Oh, God’s word goes forth, to be sure, and if need be, when vast numbers of “churches” are apostate. There will always be a true church somewhere on the planet, as the Lord said to Elijah, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18), and to his disciples, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against [my Church]” (Matthew 16:18). God has always had a people, and He always will. But the fact that God shall always see that His word goes out into all the world does not lessen a church’s responsibility to fulfill her divine appointment to guard the integrity of that word and proclaim that word in all of its fullness and truth to a lost world.
A local church is NOT just a gathering of like-minded believers. Such a definition would fit any secular organization of “believers” in whatever they believe in. A local church is even more than just a instrument for spreading the gospel. The Church is an institution ordained of God of which the local church is a part, whose purpose is to stand by, protect, cherish, support, and by all means, fearlessly uphold the gospel of Jesus Christ before the world and without contamination from the world. “Movements” don’t do this, and “fellowships” can’t do this. This can only be done by a unique organism instituted by God for this very purpose—and God called it “His Church.”