1 Timothy 3:14-16
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, 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. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed amongst the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
1 Tim. 3:14-16 (ESV)
Having taken us through the spiritual and practical c.v.’s required for those who are to serve the church as overseers (3:1-7) and deacons (3:8-13), Paul concludes this section talking about the nature of the church. He’s hoping, longing even, to visit Timothy in Ephesus, but is likely to be delayed, and so the whole purpose of this letter is to describe how people are to behave in the church, whether minister like Timothy, elder, deacon, or member. Collectively though, the behaviour of the people in the church are to reflect the three images Paul gives.
Firstly the church is the household of God. The community of believers are a family. They’re not just a collection of people, spectators at a football match, crowds queuing for some concert or museum, even a list of pastoral issues to chat through and aid. The church is to be modelled on family. We, in the church are to know people, not just stand next to them in worship. We are to love one another, not tell them they;re sat in the wrong seat. We are to respect everyone, long for the young to grow and develop in their faith, learn from the wisdom and experience of those who are older, work hard for each other, support each other in the work. God doesn’t call individuals to himself and leave them by themselves, to fend for themselves, to grow by themselves, he places Christians in families, to support and love, encourage, and comfort each other.
Secondly the church is the church of the living God. It is the best news that God is alive. He’s not the dead and buried in a tomb, he’s not bogged down in endless religious ceremonies and regulations. God is alive. Today. We are to be the church of the living God. Where is this living God? God declared to Joshua that the living God would be among the people of Israel, that he would be with them wherever they went (Joshua 1), and Paul elsewhere describes how with sanctification in the Holy Spirit, we ourselves become temples of the living God (2 Cor 6:16). God dwells in us, when we meet together: in our worship, in the breaking of bread and sharing of wine, in the Word as it read and preached, in the family of God.
Thirdly the church is a pillar and buttress of the truth. Buttresses support walls from the onslaught of wind and pressure. They make sure a wall will not fall down due to sideways pressure. The church is a buttress of the truth, making sure that the truth is not twisted or changed to humanity’s own needs, or infected with false doctrine, or even watered down so that the truth is simply as bland as no truth. The church is a buttress of the truth and it is also a pillar. A pillar supports the roof, literally holds it aloft. The church is to hold the truth high, so that all may see and know the truth. What is the great truth that the church is to buttress and loft high for all to see: that Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory (v.16)
The church of today faces the challenge that Timothy’s church did in Ephesus. Can we be the household of God and the church of the living God and a pillar and buttress of the truth? For it is easy for one or more of these to be lost from a local church or denomination. A church that is simply the household of God, will be wonderful at looking out for each other, holding social events and welcoming everyone. A church that is simply the church of the living God will only be concerned about meeting together to experience the holiness of God in its midst. A church that is simply a pillar and buttress of the truth will be so concerned with knowledge and understanding that it fails to enlighten the spiritual life. No, today’s church really must be the household of God, the church of the living God and a pillar and buttress of the truth. Then it will be a church that is focussed on glorifying Christ in all its activity, and a church whose members will form a thriving community of people who are faithfully knowledgeable in the gospel and alive in the Spirit.