Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Hemmingsen on the Church (3)

Here, in part 3, Hemmingsen begins to list the titles of the church as found in Scripture. In the following passage he deals with two: “the house of the living God” and “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Text and Translation

Haec Ecclesia variis titulis ornatur in Scriptura, 1 Timoth. 3 domus Dei viventis dicitur, quia in medio nostri, quos adoptionis gratia in filios recepit, habitat. Huius domus architectus est Christus, Ebrae. 4 et fundamentum, 2 Cor. 3. Fundamentum aliud nemo potest ponere, praeter id, quod positum est, qui est Christus Iesus. Sed quomodo rite super Christum aedificatur Ecclesia? Si ipse solus statuitur pro sapientia, iusticia, sanctificatione, redemptione, satisfactione, purgatione, denique vita et gloria. Columna et fundamentum veritatis 2 Tim. 3 dicitur, quia suo ministerio veritatem propagat et tuetur, pura Evangelii praedicatione. Unde colligitur, illic non esse Ecclesiam, ubi veritas sepulta iacet, et horrendum in modum diruta, eversa pedibus calcatur. Non dicitur columna veritatis, quasi ex ipsa simpliciter penderet, sed hominum respectu. Sustinet enim Ecclesia veritatem, dum eam puram retinet et sinceram, dum praedicatione transmittit ad posteros, dum suo praeconio ornat. (Enchiridion TheologicumClassis IIICaput II)

This church is adorned with various titles in Scripture. In 1 Tim. 3 it is called “the house of the living God,” because he dwells in our midst, whom he has received as sons by the grace of adoption. The “builder” (Heb. 4)1 and “foundation” (2 Cor. 3)2 of this house is Christ. “No one is able to place another foundation except for that which is Christ Jesus.” But how is the church duly built upon Christ? If he alone is established as wisdom, justice, sanctification, redemption, satisfaction, cleansing–in short, as life and glory. In 2 Tim. 3, it is called “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” because it propagates and guards the truth by its own ministry, the pure preaching of the gospel. From this it is inferred that there is not a church there where the truth lies buried and, cast down in a dreadful way, it is trampled underfoot once it has been overturned. It is not called the pillar of the truth as if the truth were dependent upon it simpliciter, but in respect of men. For the church upholds the truth as long as it retains it pure and sincere, as long as it hands it on to posterity by preaching, as long as it adorns it with its own heralding.3


  1. Christ both builds the church and is its foundation–but he is so only if he is taken to be all. In Christ alone is to be found wisdom, righteousness, purgation, etc.
  2. The church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” but not in some sort of self-enclosed, self-determining way, as if it were the case ex opere operato. It is so only as it upholds and displays (that is what pillars and foundations do) the truth, considered as something having independent existence to which the church is itself accountable rather than as determined by the church itself without possibility of external critique and judgment. To quote Walter Sobchak, “Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
  3. Thus the “church” only exists as long as the truth is upheld in it, not buried or overturned. Its status as “pillar” is not because the truth needs the church lest the truth perish; it is “pillar” because it displays and commends before men the truth to which it is subject.

  1. This almost certainly should be a reference to Heb. 3. 
  2. This almost certainly should be a reference to 1 Cor. 3. 
  3. The translation is my own. 

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.