1 Timothy 3:14-16
14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- What was your main takeaway from the sermon?
- Did the Holy Spirit lead you into any situations this week where you had an opportunity to put your takeaway(s) into practice?
- What impact did those opportunities have on you spiritually?
- In this passage we are given different labels (household, assembly, pillar and foundation) that help us understand the church. What does it mean that we are the household of God? Why does that matter?
- What does it mean that we are the assembly of the living God? Why does that matter?
- What does it mean that the church is the pillar and foundation of truth? Why does that matter?
- Verse 16 teaches us that Christ is the source (spring) of our godliness. Why does the church need to be reminded of the Christ-centeredness of our existence and life together? What happens if we neglect this teaching?
- Paul tells the church that it needs to conduct itself appropriately. How can the lives of individual church members reflect the gospel? Why is that important?
- How does the organization of the church factor into this passage? (what are implications for worship gatherings, leadership structures, decision making rights, and more?)
- What happens is a church is negligent of its responsibility to organize effectively?
An Orderly Church
*This transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
We are going to be in 1 Timothy, chapter three. So if you can grab a Bible, we do have them here in the book racks in front of you and in the bibles that we have here. First Timothy, chapter three, you’re going to find on page 1024, I’m going to read verses 16. I’m sorry, verses 14 to 16. And then we’ll pray and we’ll get to work. This is 1 Timothy, chapter three, verses 14 to 16. And it reads like this.
Although I hope to come to you soon, I’m writing these instructions so that if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great. He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
Let’s pray. Lord, as we’ve opened your word this morning, we’re praying that by your spirit, through your word, you would speak to us. We pray, Lord, that you would help us to know who we are as your people, the household of God. Help us to embrace this high and holy calling of being a local church. And we pray, Lord, that you would give us favor and wisdom so that we can organize ourselves in a way that is pleasing to you. We pray in your name. Amen.
Three things I want to show you here. They are truth, life, and orderliness. And each of these have a question tied to them that we’re answering.
TRUTH: ‘WHAT IS THE CHURCH?’
So, truth. First off, the question that we’re answering is, what is the church? And what we find here in the short little paragraph is we find these different descriptions of who we are. And so I want to look at them and help us to think through how this affects us as Park City church.
So first off, in verse 15, we find out that we are God’s household. If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household. Paul tells us that the people of God are a household. That means a couple different things. First off, we’re a house. We see that all over in the New Testament. We’re this place in which God has made himself present in a way that is unique over against all of creation, in which he is present in all of creation. But he makes his manifest presence known within his people. The people of God become the place in which he resides. It’s this beautiful concept throughout all of scripture where God makes himself known. So if you think all the way back to the first book of the Bible, there’s a situation where a dude is traveling, and he goes to bed for the night, and it’s a very provisional thing. He’s sleeping with his head on a rock, which means he’s not anticipating being there very long, so he’s sleeping there. And while he’s sleeping, he has a vision. He sees a ladder going up into heaven, and he sees on that ladder angels descending and ascending. So he wakes up from sleep with that vision in mind, and he is incredibly moved by it. This is Genesis, chapter 28. And he says this. How awesome is this place? And he says, this is none other than the house of God. He says these incredible things, and he names the place. He actually renames the place Bethel, which means the house of God. And that’s a great name, by the way, for a church. Bethel, the house of God. But that idea is what Paul is getting at here. When he looks at us and he says, you guys are the house of God. I’m writing this so that you would know how to behave, how to conduct yourselves in this reality, which is the house of God. This is the place that God is making his presence known. We saw it last week. He’s building something up. It’s like a construction project. And as Paul reminded us there in one Corinthians, chapter three, he said, you guys are the place in which the spirit of God is in your midst. This is the place in which God resides, the dwelling place of God. It’s a sacred space, and you together are that space. So it is God’s house, but it’s also his household, meaning the people who are a part of it and the rules of the home. So he has this reality that we are the household, the residents who live with God. And we have a certain code of conduct. So when my kids have friends over, friends from school or whatever the case might be, sometimes they have to be reminded, this is our house, our house, our rules. So these are the things we do. You know this. You’re my child. We live together. I tell you this repeatedly. These are the things that are important to us. So if people come over and they’re doing things differently, we remind them, this is our household. Right? And in the same way, God is reminding us of that truth today. This is his household. It’s his house, his rules. He gets to tell us how we behave, and it doesn’t matter what other people are doing, that’s fine. And, well, if they want to do it, that way. But he’s saying, this is my household. I’m writing these things so that those who are a part of it would understand how to conduct themselves in God’s household. And he makes that plain through his word and through his teaching. So we are God’s household.
An Assembly of the Living God
Secondly, we are the church of the living God, verse 15. We’re the assembly of the living God. So this household is the church of the living God. Now, this is where we get the idea of church. It’s actually a word in Greek, a weird word. You’ll probably never use it other than today. It’s called ecclesia, and it means assembly. And when we talk about ecclesiology, that’s the study or the doctrine of the church. But what that word means is a group of people that have come together – that have assembled together. And actually, when this was being written in the first century, that’s all that it meant. Now it came to mean how we would think about it today, a particular term with a specialized meaning. But back then, it was just a people that come together. And in fact, it shows up in the book of acts. I’ll show it to you there. In acts, chapter 19, the apostle Paul goes to a town. He’s preaching the message of the gospel, and people are believing the good news of Jesus Christ, which is great news for Paul, but it’s really bad news for some of the residents there who have businesses that are dependent upon people not being believers in Christ. So there’s a silversmith there who makes these little idols, because in their town they have a temple to the Greek God Artemis. And so the silversmith makes these things, and then people buy them. And that’s the business that this person’s engaged in. But when the gospel comes to town, it’s changing people’s hearts, and they begin to realize, oh, I don’t need that anymore. I don’t have to go purchase this from you, because I don’t need this little figurine. There’s a real God, and I’m now in a relationship with that real God. So, this really upsets the silversmith, and he starts to get a people together, and he goes, we can’t have this. This is our whole industry. The economy is dependent upon our ability to make people buy these things from us. And now the good news is disrupting all of that. So they get a group of people together, and it’s the same word. It’s Ecclesia, it’s an assembly. But in this case, it’s an angry mob. It’s a bunch of people who’ve come together, which, by the way, maybe that’s an important text for understanding the church. You’ve got an angry mob coming together, and in fact, they’re all saying these different things. They’re shouting one thing and some are shouting another thing. And it tells us in acts 19, they don’t even know why they’re there. They’ve got this assembly. In that case, that’s just a bunch of people who are upset, but they’ve gathered together around this concept of we’re upset, but we don’t even know why we’re upset. So what makes that assembly different from this one? Well, it’s right here in our text, that assembly is gathered because of the economic situation going on there. Our assembly is gathered under the living God. This is the assembly of the living God. It’s a people who have determined we’re going to come together, not because we’ve got different ideas of what we should or shouldn’t do. We’re coming together under God. We are coming together under the reality of the God who is. We are this group that gathers purposefully for this point that God is our God, and we want to come together with one another so that we might hear from him and understand how we ought to live in this world. But we come together then very purposefully. And this is an important part of the church. You really can’t understand church apart from gathering, because that’s included in the terminology of what it is. So, we need to be a people who come together purposefully that say, we’re going to meet so that we can be the church together. Hebrews writes like this because [gathering] is an idea that’s kind of going by the wayside. There are a lot of people who are like, I don’t need to do that. I’ll just be a Christian on my own and with my favorite people, but I’m not going to gather with a bunch of numb skulls like them. That’s just going to hinder me. That’s going to limit my ability to be effective. But the writer to the Hebrew says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). So the church is an assembly. It’s a gathering of people coming together purposefully under the living God.
Pillar and Foundation of Truth
We are also the pillar and foundation of truth. Look at verse 15, the pillar and foundation of truth, which means who we are as a people. Has something to do with the truth of what God has said. We are an assembly, but we are an assembly that is defined by the truth of God. Both the scripture that he’s given us and the truth in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So we are built out of this reality. We are the pillar and the foundation of truth, meaning the base of this thing and then the construct that goes up above it. It’s all about the truth of what God has revealed to us in his son and in his word. And those columns, by the way, which is a great way to interpret what’s being said here. They’re these things that hold up the reality that hold up. We’re going to hold forth the beauty of God’s truth. That’s a part of what we’re to do. So as we think about being a church, it’s very important that we recognize this thing matters. We can gather people together and do a whole lot of different things, maybe even good and wonderful things for the community. But if we’re actually going to be the church, we have to have a reference point to God’s truth. Now, this is something that is often given or assumed, and when that happens, what you get is you depart from it. I think I learned this from Don Carson, but he says you’re always only ever one generation from apostasy. Because here’s what will happen. A lot of times a church will assume the bible. Yeah, it’s important. Yeah, of course it is. I mean, we’re a church, good grief. I mean, the Bible is God’s word, so it’s important, so we assume it. But the next step would be to neglect it. So, because it’s assumed, you’re like, yes, we care about that, but actually, here’s the stuff that gets us excited. And then you neglect it, and then eventually you forget it. You forget the word of God. So if we’re going to be the church, we have to remind ourselves of the importance of his truth. We are an organization that is dependent upon God revealing truth to us. And there are a lot of churches that have church in their name, but the truth has departed from them. And that’s tragic. But the good news is there’s hope for revival throughout church history. You see this happening, but I’m going to show you one from the scriptures. There was a situation in the old testament where the scriptures were parked away back in the storage area. These are important, but we’re going to put them back here and that’s where they’re going to camp out. And what happens is they forgot about them. So then in two kings, chapter 22, somebody’s cleaning up, which we did this week. We were cleaning up behind there. Tim was organizing. We’re like, whoa, look at all this stuff that we’ve got. This is great. But what happened back then was they get back there and they find the scriptures and they pull it out and they dust it off and they’re like, oh no. Like, this is the charter document. These are supposed to be the things that are informing why we even exist. And they’re parked back here and we’ve not even seen them for forever. And they start to read them and they recognize, oh no. And they have to make these huge societal reforms because they realize we have been negligent of the things of God. We parked the scriptures and did other things and we’re no longer operating as the people of God. And Josiah was the king at that point and they made some incredible changes there. But if we’re going to be the church, we need to recognize this thing needs to be a key feature of what we do together because we are the pillar and foundation of it. We’ve been entrusted with this and we have a responsibility to it. And in fact, the workers have a responsibility to it. Malachi two seven. Talking about the workers from the Old Testament puts it like this. The lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. People ought to come to park city with the expectation I’m going to hear the knowledge of God because the word of God is given a key place in the ordering of the service and the ministries that are performed. So as a church, we’re saying this book matters and that shows up in the decisions that we make about what we do on a Sunday morning. It shows up in the strategies that we employ for making disciples. This book matters and we’re not going to assume that. We’re going to make that very plain and put it on the front side going, this book is important to us because we are meant to be a people of truth and God has given us his truth here.
LIFE: ‘WHAT GIVES THE CHURCH LIFE?’
Well, next, look at this. The life or answering the question what animates the church, what makes us alive and what sustains us in this new life? And the answer is simply Christ. The answer that we find here in this paragraph is that the thing that is making us who we are and then sustaining us in our life together is Jesus Christ. And that’s what verse 16 is all about. It is this almost a creed which is why it’s bracketed. It’s like a hymn. It’s like a saying that became commonplace in the first century. And he’s articulating then the reality of who Jesus is and why that is so important for the conversation about the church. One of the commentators put it like this. He says, this is the doctrinal climax or the heart of the letter because it defines the church by her relation to the glorious Christ. This section right here that we blow through and we go, okay, this is cool. This is the heart of first Timothy. So what he’s doing then is he’s saying the church exists because of Christ and the church is sustained because of Christ. And if you remove Christ, we’re not talking about the church. If you remove Christ from the conversation, it could be a group of people assembling. It could be a group of people doing all kinds of noble things, but it is not the church. The church is a people who are assembling for Christ’s sake. And so we see that in Jesus’s own teaching, in Matthew 16, you remember what he says, says, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But it’s his. It’s his church, and he is at the heart of it. Or as we noticed last week, this thing that is being built up, this construction project, is being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. What Paul said last week in one Corinthians chapter three was, there is no other foundation. There is no other reality under this thing. It is him. If it’s anything else, it is not a church. So we are referring to the person and work of Jesus Christ and his influence on who we are. Look at verse 16. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great. So he’s showing us here that this is without a doubt, this is why we are here. And he’s saying, the mystery of this thing is being made plain to us, and it is great. And he’s not saying it’s a mystery. I don’t understand. Back then, the way they used mystery is something concealed and then revealed. And he goes, the mystery of this thing. There were all these promises that God made, and we didn’t know all the details of how it was going to work. And then God revealed it. And the mystery was Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the promises of God coming true in him. He says, this is the mystery. It is the mystery of Christ. It is from him that true godliness springs and is great. And I think that he’s alluding to acts, chapter 19, acts 19. Remember, there’s an assembly. They gather together and what are they doing? They’re chanting, great is Artemis. Great is Artemis, great is Artemis. And the gospel workers are like, who’s Artemis? Who gives a rip about Artemis? Artemis is nothing. There’s a real God. And so here Paul is saying, no, we are gathering under this reality that truly is great, and it is the person and work of Jesus Christ. And he tells us here in verse 16, he gives us this saying, and we’ll look at it briefly. He appeared in the flesh, Jesus Christ, flesh and blood individual, a real person, a physical appearing, both in his first coming, but then also after his bodily resurrection. He appeared in the flesh. He was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels. Vindicated, meaning they put him to death. And everyone thought, game over, this is the end. But he comes back from the dead and he is vindicated. He shows himself to be victorious over sin, death and the devil through conquering the grave. He was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels. He was preached among the nations. It’s his name that goes forth to make followers of God in all places. It was believed on in the world. People heard that message and came to saving faith in him. And now he has been taken up in glory. He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. This is our king. This is Jesus. This is the reason why the church exists. We have trusted in him. He has made us his people, and we are his glad subjects. Now. This is why it matters so deeply to our conversation about the church. The church has a Christ centeredness to it. It is meant to be an entity that is focused on him. And the truth of the matter is, it is very, very easy to drift away from that matter of first importance. I was thinking about it this week going over this sermon, and I was thinking through how I spend my time and energy, and so much time and energy as a leader in a local church is spent on things other than highlighting that beautiful reality. It’s focused on organizing and coordinating people and making programs happen and these different things. But what we need to be about, fundamentally and primarily, is Christ. We need to remind ourselves of the centrality of who he is and what he’s done, and we need to do that repeatedly so that we don’t find ourselves assuming him as well and neglecting him and forgetting him. He has to be at the head of everything that we’re doing. And if we do that, then we will be a healthy church. If we emphasize Christ, that is what he wants, so we are to do that.
ORDERLINESS: ‘WHAT SHOULD WE DO AS A CHURCH?’
Finally, this third thing that we see here is this idea of orderliness. Orderliness. Or answering the question, what should we do? Look at verses 14 and 15, says, although I hope to come to you soon, I’m writing you these instructions so that if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s church. He says, he’s writing to Timothy. He’s saying, I wish I could be there with you in person. That would be his preference. I wish I could instruct you face to face and walk with this stuff, through this stuff with you. I wish that I were with you. But there’s a constraint. I’m not there. So in my absence, I’m writing you this letter. I’m giving you apostolic instruction. I’m giving you some ideas for how to do this thing. And this is a significant reality. If he didn’t do this, we wouldn’t have this letter. So it’s a beautiful gift from God, but we get this documentation, and here’s what it is. Instructions on how to conduct the church. That’s what the letter is. He’s helping us think through how the people who are a part of what’s called the church ought to behave as the church. And I’m going to show you here two different things that I think he means by this word, how to conduct yourself. The first is, and both of these show up in the letter, which is why I’m confident to say both of these are in play here.
The first one is, he wants people who are a part of the church to behave like followers of Christ. He wants us to have an ethic, a way that we live, that reflects the beauty of God. We are a set apart people. So he gives all these different instructions in one Timothy, and he’s telling us, here’s how you do things like work. If you work, here’s what you need to do. There’s a godly ethic that has a particular application to your vocation and your work week. He gives us instructions on how to handle different relationships that we have within this family. He’s giving us very particular things, saying, you are the people of God. So it matters how you behave, it matters how you interact with one another. So he’s teaching us the conduct that is appropriate to the good news of the gospel. We are meant to be a colony of heaven in the citizenship of death, which is what Eugene Peterson calls it. We’re to be this outpost of heaven, and people should be able to look at us and go, oh, so that’s what it looks like to be in a relationship with the living God. That’s what it looks like to be people who are set apart to the things of God. The Lord himself taught this in Matthew, chapter five. He said to his followers, you are to be salt and light. You’re like a city on a hill. And he tells us, let your light shine. Live in such a way that other people might see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Live in that sort of way. Or Peter says a very similar thing in his letter. He says, live such good lives among unbelievers that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits. Live in such a way, conduct yourself in such a way that people glorify God even if they disagree with you. They see your good deeds, and they glorify God on the day that he visits. So we need to recognize as the church, we are the visible representation of God. And people are looking at us, and they’re measuring whether or not they believe in the authenticity of God or the reality of whether or not it’s a good idea to follow him based off of their interactions with us. So the stakes are very high. Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel.
The second thing, though, that is obviously a big part of this letter is not just our behaviors, it’s our organization. He’s talking about orderliness. And that’s what this letter really is. So if you look at chapter two, what does it say? It’s instructions. This is the heading in the NIv, instructions on worship. When you come together, here’s what you do. Here are the instructions on how to assemble together and the kind of things that you would do. What’s chapter three? Qualifications for the leaders. So this thing needs leadership. So here are the two different categories of leaders. You’ve got elders, you’ve got deacons. This is not a whimsical thing that we’re doing here. There’s a purposefulness in it. So those that occupy those different offices here are the requirements for them. Qualifications for elders. Here it is. It lays it out. Bunch of character stuff. Bunch of stuff. Make sure anybody who’s moving in this direction, even though it’s a great thing for them to aspire to this task, it’s a noble thing. Verse one of chapter three, make sure that they are meeting these criteria. Deacons, same thing. And both of these different categories are saying, the leaders of this thing, you have to be able to appoint them. They can’t be self-appointed. They have to be people that are vetted and trained and inspected for these things. If you look at verse ten of chapter three, you see they must be tested first. So you don’t just get into this position because you requested to do so. But these are individuals that have proven themselves in this regard, that they are worthy of these different offices within the church. So he’s saying, I’m writing this so that you would understand there’s an orderliness that’s required for the local church to be healthy. There’s a purposefulness in the leadership structure. There’s a purposefulness in the things that we do when we gather. There’s a clear and deliberate plan for these different things. And all of it really, really matters. Over the last couple of years, Park City church has just gone through all kinds of different seasons and iterations, and becoming its own thing was pretty incredible in and of itself. But then we’ve grown. We’ve got this big highway out here with 16,000 cars that go by every day according to the traffic count, and new people who are showing up over and over again, week by week. New people turn out to be a part of this thing. And what we have experienced in the last two years is the necessity of this, the orderliness of the church. And when we were portable, and we were just kind of like trying to survive week to week. Like, if we can just get set up, which this week felt like that a little bit as we were doing the sound booth. And it’s like, dude, we did this every week when we were portable. This is insane. You don’t even know if you’re going to turn it on and it’s going to work. And we were just trying to survive. But now, as we’ve kind of gotten in here, we’re in the life of the church now, where it’s like we actually need to spend more time, not just on creating a service and assembling. We actually need to get to the business of conducting ourselves in a manner that’s orderly. We need to make sure that we get to this place of determining the leaders and the structures and the way in which we make decisions and those sorts of things. So one of the things that I’ve been working on, and Phil has written a part of this as well. It’s called a philosophy of ministry document, and it just outlines, here’s who we are as a church, because God has given us a unique calling for this place and for these leaders and this congregation. And so we want to articulate that just like Paul did. I wish I could walk everyone through this face to face, but we need to be able to document it so that it’s clear and plain. We need to be willing to make these things accessible, and so we’ll put them on our website and do those sorts of things where you can see it and read it for yourself. Now, here’s something that I learned from Thomas Odin. He wrote a book called Pastoral Theology. And he said of this, what I’m describing, of documenting this and doing policies and writing a philosophy of ministry document. He said, a lot of young ministers don’t want anything to do with this. They see it as silly. It’s actually, in their mind, potentially a departure from the important things that they ought to be doing, the spiritual things. But then he says, but experience clergy. He was an old man when he wrote this, and he’s deceased now. He said, experienced clergy, on the other hand, know all too well that they must function effectively as leaders in the church and community and to be responsible for the complex organizational processes. They’re not just pastors to individuals, but to a community that hungers for a wise and useful ordering of itself. That’s what we’re after right now. And it might not seem like the most exciting thing to write documents, to write policy. Some of you are like, yeah, that sounds awful. Go ahead and do that core, because we want none of that. But this is where we’re at as a church. We need to clarify who we are, and we need to clarify how we do things. And we need to recognize that we are dealing with the most sacred of things when we talk about the local church. So this can’t be some flippant thing that we do. It has to be done with care and diligence, with wisdom, and with intentionality. And that’s what we’re aiming for in this season. So as we’ve seen here, as we’ve looked at this passage on the local church, we’re reminded of who we are. We’re the house of God. We’re the assembly of the living God. We are the pillar and foundation of truth. The source of our existence and the ongoing spring of life that we have is the mystery of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. For us, therefore, it is incredibly important that we would organize ourselves in a way that reflects his heart and his passions for us. So as a church, we purposefully commit to these things. We want to intentionally do these things so that we might be as effective as possible for his sake.
Let’s pray. Lord, we’re praying right now that you would help us to be your people. And we’re reminded today of the significance of this high and holy calling of being your people. Lord, we pray for wisdom, pray for the elder team. I pray for the decision makers within this church. I pray that we would be able to work in a way that’s harmonious and that we would end up with a plan that we are excited about. And I pray that it would be compelling as we move forward into this new year that we find ourselves in and into this season in the life of the church that we’re in. Lord, would you help us embrace the calling that we have right this moment? Help us to do a good job of following your leadership. You are the head of the church. You are the CEO. You are the one in charge. You’re the reason why we’re here. So help us to hear from you so that we might follow you in a way that is pleasing to you. We pray in your name. Amen. Amen.