1 Timothy 3:14-15
14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Why did Paul write 1 Timothy?
Paul wanted Timothy to know precisely how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God. He’d have loved to be with him, or come to him soon, but, in case of delay, the letter would have to do. And what a great Plan B this turned out to be. Paul wanted to be with Timothy, to come to him soon, it pained him to be apart from his son in the faith, yet God had another plan, a plan that would bless Timothy, the church in Ephesus, and every church everywhere until the end of the age. Man plans. God establishes his steps. So God used Paul to write down his very Word to Christians in all times and places.
Like Timothy, I’m sure we wouldn’t mind the Apostle Paul coming to Scotland and leading our Church Weekend Away in Arbroath, telling us what we need to believe and do. But, honestly, we have the hookup. We have Scripture itself, in our language, printed so we can carry it around and read it over and over and over and constantly look back to make sure we have things right. What a kind blessing of God to us that came through less than ideal circumstances for Paul and Timothy.
Trust God, for he is good and good to us, his people. He uses tears sown in hard times to bring about a harvest of blessing and gladness for his loved ones.
Notice the phrase Paul uses in v. 15, “one ought to conduct himself.” Paul brings an “ought to” to us in this letter. He isn’t writing suggestions, things for us to consider and collaborate about. In this letter, the voice of God speaks to us. Paul is Christ’s apostle; and Christ, our King, is commanding us today how we must conduct ourselves in his church. We are not in charge. We are not free to innovate how we “do church.” Honestly, God is not all that interested in our ideas and innovations. There is a long line of human history showing where our creative ideas get us when it comes to how we should worship and honor God.
“I have an idea. Let’s melt some gold and make cows!”
“Nope. Eat it.”
God isn’t interested in the opinions of a Pope, whether he be named Franky or Benny. He doesn’t buy into a “live and let live” philosophy. When it comes to what we believe and how we live as a church, we can only receive what he has given us in Scripture. Scripture alone is our final authority, not emotions and feelings, not ever changing laws in the land, and not a Pope.
Why does it matter how we conduct ourselves as members of a local church?
It matters because of what the church is. The glorious identity of the church makes its conduct of greatest importance.
The church belongs to the living God himself. No other god is the living God, for no other god is the One True God, the Great I AM, who has always been and ever shall be, unchangeable, all-powerful, perfection itself, the possessor of life, without any need outside himself. God is God, and we are his possession. We are his household, those in whom he dwells, those who have been adopted as his children through faith in Jesus, our Big Brother.
And it is the church alone, the church of the living God, the household of God, that is the pillar and support of the truth. This is what God has made us. No other institution in the world can claim this. No seminary, no university, no para-church organization can claim this identity. Each true local church is the pillar and support of the truth. Each local church has been established by God to hold to the truth, hold up the truth, and hold forth the truth. Each church has been made by God to guard it, adorn it, and proclaim it.
What does this mean for the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland congregation down the road?
Once a church denies the truth, it is no longer a church.
Sure, the Catholic Pope may have kept a funny hat and a college of cardinals, but he has abandoned the truth, and so he is only the head of a swamp of lies. An institution that directly denies that sinners are saved by God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is no church.
Sure, the Church of Scotland may still call itself a church, Liz may still call herself the pastor at the Richmond congregation, stuff called preaching, baptism, and communion may still happen. But the Church of Scotland broadly and the Richmond congregation specifically have denied the true gospel. Neither can honestly be called churches by any accurate use of the word. Richmond isn’t the pillar and support of the truth. It’s a fortress of Satan, belonging to him, comprised of children of him.
What does the nature of the church, as the pillar and support of truth, mean for our evangelism?
We do not have a good bet going on. “The odds are not only in my favor, but if I’m right and you’re wrong, that’s a big deal. And if you’re right and I’m wrong, then no big deal.” Our evangelistic play isn’t Paschal’s wager. We don’t likely have the truth. We don’t have the best bet. We have the truth. And our words in evangelism should both communicate that truth clearly and clearly communicate our certainty in that truth. Repent and believe the gospel. Whosoever believes in Christ most certainly will not perish but have everlasting life.
What does this mean for a preacher’s sermons?
The church is the pillar and buttress of the truth, and Christ himself identifies the Word of God as the truth of God. A preacher, preaching to men and women who belong to that glorious institution which is the pillar and buttress of the truth, the church of the living God, should only preach the truth, and the whole truth. He should preach the Bible, not his own opinions, and the whole Bible, communicating faithfully what the Bible communicates. Expositional preaching is to be at the center of a church’s life because of what the church is.
What does this have to do with a church’s Statement of Faith?
The defense of a Statement of Faith, a church holding to a confession and creed, is set forth in these two verses, and confirmed in verse 16. When men and women join a church they are joining in holding to the truth. What do we believe and contend for and live by? The Bible. What does the Bible teach? It basically teaches… This is the function of a confession. It is a summary statement of the Bible’s teaching, a summary statement of what the members of a church are holding to and holding up. Charles Spurgeon said this regarding the 1689 London Baptist Confession, “This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness…Cleave fast to the Word of God which is here mapped out for you.” Yes and amen to the godly use of Statements of Faith in the local church.