How irrelevant is the church? Why do you gather each week? How frequently do you meet with others mid-week?
This is the eleventh post in a series through Pauls first letter to Timothy. I’ve taken a break from this book since September so today I’m going to get back into the letter and try and write some things about what I’m reading. I should say, the previous 1 Timothy posts can all be found here and I’d encourage you to read them if you get the chance.
The text for today’s post is 1 Timothy 3:14-16 and I can’t think of a better text for this Christmas season:
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 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. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
1 Timothy 3:14–16
Let me first talk about verse 14-15, leaving verse 16 for my Christmas Day post. So let me ask you a question: what does church mean to you? as you consider the answer to that let me try and unpack what church means to God. But first a quote from Mark Dever’s book “The Church, the Gospel made Visible”:
For too many Christians today, the doctrine of the church is like a decoration on the front of a building. Maybe it’s pretty, maybe it’s not, but finally it’s unimportant because it bears no weight.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The doctrine of the church is of the utmost importance. It is the most visible part of Christian theology, and it is vitally connected with every other part. “Christ’s work is the church’s foundation. . . . Christ’s work continues in the church; the fullness of the mystery of God in redemption is disclosed among his people.”
Paul’s purpose for writing was to give Timothy, as a leader, practical information on how to run things in the Ephesian church.. This is clear from his comment in verse 15:
you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God
So, first consider with me that the church must be the expression of God’s family. We are his household. Whilst we can come to God as our Father, there are certain “expected behaviours” of that family that we are to abide by. The way we treat each other, the way we talk about each other (and to each other), the way we look after each other when we are sick or in need. We should have a great empathy, compassion and care for each other so that when others see it, they glorify God.
Second, notice that the church must be the place where God is. This makes the church, as Spurgeon put it: “the most beautiful place on earth”. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and reminded them:
In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The church is a place where God dwells and manifests His presence. Consider how significant this makes our weekly gatherings: the church gathers and the Lord, the Living God, is amongst us.
Thirdly, the church is the guardian of God’s Word. Of course, Paul puts it in more colourful language calling it:
a pillar and buttress of the truth
The church at Ephesus would easily have been able to relate this picture language because there in Ephesus was the Temple of Diana, one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. The temple was magnificent to see, with it’s 100, 18 meters high, marble columns that held aloft the giant roof.
When the Church stands boldly out, and preaches the Word, it is the pillar of the truth; when it is hidden in the Roman catacombs, and cannot proclaim the Savior’s name to the world, still there lives the truth deep in the hearts of believers, and they are then the ground of the truth.”
We are the expression of God’s family, the dwelling place of Gods presence and the guardians of God’s Word. All of this points to the awe-inspiring reality that God dwells among us.