By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
The Apostle Paul wrote these interesting words to the young preacher Timothy:
1 Timothy 3:14-15-14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;
15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
In this article, i would like to share with you three important lessons about the church from this text.
The Context Of The Statement
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, he was traveling freely throughout the Roman Empire. As Fee has pointed out:
“First, the picture of Paul that emerges from 1 Timothy and Titus portrays him traveling freely in the East. He and Titus have evangelized Crete (Titus 1:5); he has apparently traveled to Ephesus with Timothy and hopes to return (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14); at some point in all of this he intends to winter in Nicopolis, on the southern Adriatic (Titus 3:12). But in 2 Timothy he is again in prison, this time in close confinement in Rome, where he expects to die (cf. 2 Tim. 1:16–17; 2:9; 4:6–8, 16–18).” (Gordon Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 439-452 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
Many critics of the Bible would have us believe that this letter was not written until the late second century A.D.; however, the evidence from history is quite clear that 1 Timothy was indeed written by the Apostle Paul in the traditional time-frame that it has always been accredited.
“The caves at Qumran are famous for the hoard of Old Testament and other manuscripts that have been found there. But the thing which receives the least publicity (if any publicity at all) is the fact that the caves have also yielded fragments of New Testament books. This absence of publicity – this blanket denial of their identity is not to be wondered at. The fact of the matter is this, that these manuscripts were deposited in the caves at Qumran by the year AD 68 at the very latest, when Qumran and the surrounding area was overrun by the Roman 10th Legion, and according to the critics, the New Testament – especially the Gospels – had not yet been written by that time…Cave 4 at Qumran is of some interest to us here. In that cave was discovered a particular fragment known today as 4QAlpha. Though not actually a fragment of Mark’s Gospel – it was originally thought to be a medical text it does reflect the healing miracle of the blind man recorded in Mark 8:22- 26, and moreover contains the New Testament names of Caiaphas, Peter (the first time that this name has been found in an Hebrew/Aramaic document), and Aquila…Fragments of various New Testament books were themselves found in the caves of Qumran, most notably in Cave 7. One that is of particular interest is called 7Q5, and carries nothing less than a passage from Mark 6:52- 53. 3…identifying other fragments from Cave 7 as parts of the New Testament, especially fragment 7Q4 which contains 1 Timothy 3:16- 4:3….The discoveries in Cave 7 at Qumran – and the commendable diligence of O’Callaghan who identified them – proves that what the critics have been teaching all these years is wrong, misinformed and mistaken on all levels. Archaeology has never spoken plainer than it speaks right now. Copies of the New Testament books of Mark, 1 Timothy, James, Acts, Romans and 2 Peter (at least) were all in circulation by AD 68 at the very latest, and clearly years before. But what is more, they were in circulation internationally and not just locally amongst Christian groups or churches….We spoke earlier of the lack of publicity which surrounds the discovery of New Testament books – or rather their fragments – at Qumran, and their omission is pointedly displayed by Emanuel Tov, who has issued a ‘complete’ list of all the Biblical texts discovered in the Qumran caves. 22 It is indeed a prodigious and comprehensive list, except that when it comes to Cave 7 he omits all reference to the New Testament fragments which were discovered there….As we have seen, represented amongst these ‘unclassified’ fragments are the New Testament books of 1 Timothy (7Q4); Mark’s Gospel (7Q5) (7Q6, 1) (7Q7) (7Q15); James (7Q8); Acts (7Q6); Romans (7Q9); and 2 Peter (7Q10). How these can all be omitted from a list which claims to be ‘complete’ is something to be wondered at. (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The New Testament: part One-The Gospels, 300-470 (Kindle Edition))
Norman Geisler has pointed out:
“Jose *O’Callahan, a Spanish Jesuit paleographer, made headlines around the world in 1972 when he announced that he had translated a piece of the Gospel of Mark on a DSS fragment. This was the earliest known piece of Mark. Fragments from cave 7 had previously been dated between 50B.C. and A.D. 50 and listed under “not identified” and classified as “Biblical Texts.” O’Callahan eventually identified nine fragments….A date beforeA.D. 50 leaves no time for mythological embellishment of the records. They would have to be accepted as historical. It would also show Mark to be one of the earlier Gospels. Further, since these manuscripts are not originals but copies, it would reveal that the New Testament was “published”—copied and disseminated—during the life time of the writers. Itwould also reveal the existence of the New Testament canon during this early period, with pieces representing every major section of the New Testament: Gospels, Acts, and both Pauline and General Epistles.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 188 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
Paul had a desire to return to Timothy on his voyages, but in case he was delayed, he wanted to write to encourage Timothy about how to behave as a young Gospel preacher, and how to instruct other Christians to behave in the church. In fact, other translations of this passage are informative:
1 Timothy 3:15 (CEV)-so that if I am delayed, you will know how everyone who belongs to God’s family ought to behave. After all, the church of the living God is the strong foundation of truth.
1 Timothy 3:15 (ESV)-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.
It is also important to remember that in this letter, Paul discusses personal relationships in the church, as well as what takes place during the worship assembly. This is made clear in chapter two:
1 Timothy 2:8-I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
Look at that word “everywhere.” It is a very interesting word in the Greek New Testament:
“These words about women learning but not teaching are hardly applicable to home and private settings (Titus 2:3- 5). The conclusive point to my mind is the phrase “in every place” (1 Timothy 2:8). Although it is often taken to mean “everywhere,” there is another Greek word that means “everywhere” ( pantachou ), and this phrase “in every place” often appears in Jewish and Christian usage with an almost technical meaning of “in every place of meeting” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8). 20 This phrase would be equivalent to the phrase “in church,” or “in assembly” in 1 Corinthians 14.” (Everett Ferguson, Women In The Church: Biblical And Historical Perspectives, 489-492 (Kindle Edition); Abilene, TX; Dessert Willow Publishing)
So throughout this Epistle, Paul switches back and forth from discussing relationships in the church, and especially matters that are going to deal specifically with the public worship of the church.
With that in mind, please notice three important facts about the church.
The Church Belongs To God
The first thing which stands out to me about this passage is the fact that the church belongs to God. It is the church of the living God, i.e., it is the church which belongs to God.
Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded that the church belongs to God. Jesus promised to build His church:
Matthew 16:18-And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus Himself purchased the church:
Acts 20:28-Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Jesus is the Savior of the church:
Ephesians 5:23-For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
All of these factors go to remind us of the fact that the church belongs to Jesus. In fact, several times in Scripture we read of the fact that God owns the church.
1 Corinthians 1:2-To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Romans 16:16-Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,
These references are not proper names for the church. Instead, they are descriptions of who the church belongs to, i.e., God.
Many in our world are members of churches which have been denominated. They are members of church which were started by uninspired men, and they were religious names that are not according to the Word of God. The Apostle Paul condemned giving human names and dividing up the church when he wrote 1 Corinthians. Some of the brethren there were dividing up over different persons, and Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13-10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Through the years, great religious leaders have encouraged people to drop denominational titles and to return to the simple description of the church portrayed in Scripture.
Martin Luther: “I pray you leave my name alone, and do not call yourselves Lutherans but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. Paul would not let any call themselves after Paul, nor of Peter but of Christ. How then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God: Cease my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions: away with all; and let us call ourselves only Christians after him from whom our doctrine comes” (Stork, The Life of Luther, p. 289).
John Wesley, in the preface of his New Testament with Notes (1754, p. 5), wrote: “Would to God that all the party names and unscriptural phrases and forms, which have divided the Christian world were forgotten, and that we might all agree to sit down together as humble loving disciples at the feet of our common Master, to hear His words and imbibe His Spirit and to transform His life into our own.” (John Wesley, New Testament With Notes, 5).
Bishop Anderson (Episcopalian of the Diocese of Chicago), “God never made protestant Episcopalians, nor Presbyterians, nor Congregationalists, nor any other sectarian names. He made Christians and they chose to call themselves by less lovely names.”
Charles Spurgeon: “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever. I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish; but let Christ’s name endure forever” (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Memorial Library, Vol. I, p. 168).
P. S. Henson (Baptist): “I sometimes feel sorry that the word ‘Baptist’ which was flung at us by our enemies and stuck, should be our name for often its accent of an act obscures to others our great mission to the world. Perhaps yet we will go back to the name Christian.”
Albert Barnes (Methodist): “These divisions should be merged into the holy name Christian.”
The church belongs to God, and we need to return to the pattern that He has set up for it. Paul wanted to make sure that Timothy encouraged people to teach no other teaching or doctrine that the teaching which came from Christ:
1 Timothy 1:3-As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
1 Timothy 4:16-Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
The Church Is God’s Family
Another powerful lesson about the church from this passage is that we see the church is the family of God. The Greek word used here (household) was a word that usually denoted the members of a family, and that is what the church is called to be.
Many passages in the New Testament remind us of this important facet of the church. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:19-22-19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
As the family of Christ, we work to encourage and build each other up.
1 Timothy 5:1-2-1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,
2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
The church is the family of God. We do our best to encourage each other and build each other up.
Galatians 6:1-2-1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
1 John 4:7-8-7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:20-21-20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
What a blessing is the household of God!
The Church Is The Pillar And Ground Of The Truth
Finally, please notice that this passage teaches us some important facts about the important work of the church: she is the pillar and the ground of the truth. Now, the words used here in the Greek are very interesting. Barclay has written:
“(3) The Church is the pillar of the truth (stulos). In Ephesus, to which these letters were written, the word pillar would have a special significance. The greatest glory of Ephesus was the Temple of Diana, or Artemis. ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’ (Acts 19:28). It was one of the seven wonders of the world. One of its features was its pillars. It contained 127 pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. The people of Ephesus knew very well how beautiful a thing a pillar could be. It may well be that the idea of the word pillar here is not so much support –that is contained in the word buttress –as display. Often, the statue of a famous person is set on the top of a pillar so that it may stand out above all ordinary things and so be clearly seen, even from a distance. The idea here is that the Church’s duty is to hold up the truth in such a way that all may see it. (4) The Church is the buttress (hedraiōma) of the truth. The buttress is the support of the building. It keeps it standing intact. In a world which does not wish to face the truth, the Church holds it up for all to see. In a world which would often gladly eliminate unwelcome truth, the Church supports it against all who would seek to destroy it.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To Timothy, Titus, And Philemon, 99-100 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
Please notice two things with me about these facts.
First, the responsibility of the church is to uphold the truth of God’s Word. This is a responsibility that God has given to Christians!
Jude 3-Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
It is the responsibility of the saints (i.e., Christians) to contend earnestly for the saints; for the faith (i.e., the Word of God-see Acts 13:6-8) has been “delivered” (entrusted, committed) to us.
1 Timothy 6:20-O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—
I know a lot of people who believe that the only way you can teach and preach the Word of God is if He somehow miraculously “calls” you. But do you know what the Bible teaches?
2 Timothy 2:2-And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
It is the responsibility of the church to teach the Word of God.
Second, from this passage I see that it is my responsibility to make sure that my life is being conducted in such a way that I am doing a good job in showing people how beautiful God’s way is.
As Christians, we need to carefully consider the example that we set before the world. Disagreements and disruptions in the church should not be advertised, even when that can hurt us personally. I have known many people who are turned away from the church because of ungodliness that they have within congregations. I still remember one lady that I studied with who told me that she had a hard time even stepping into a church after a bad experience. Years earlier, she had visited a congregation and had within five minutes been pulled aside by someone who wanted to gossip about one of her neighbors. She “told her the news,” and that visitor decided to never return to church again.
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Corinth, he encouraged them to even suffer the wrong instead of allowing unbelievers hear that Christians were suing each other (1 Corinthians 6:1-6). While disagreements will happen, we need to do the best that we can to beautifully display the truth of God’s Word to a world that so desperately needs Him.
Philippians 2:15-16-15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
The Son of God built the church and He adds people to it when they are saved (Acts 2:47). The building and purchasing of the church required the cross of Jesus:
Ephesians 2:14-16-14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
The death of Christ, His burial, and His resurrection on the third day comprise the historical facts of the Gospel that brings salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Why not today as a believer repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ, confessing Him as the Son of God and being added to the church as you gladly obey His Word (Acts 2:37-41)?
If you are an erring Christian who has forsaken the Lord, why not repent and come back to Him today in prayer (Acts 8:22)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.