Called to Uphold Truth

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)

This is one of my favorite passages and one of the most compelling passages in the Bible regarding the operation and mission of the church. I realize that when I say the church, we may all have immediate thoughts that may not be accurate. When I say this passage is one of the most compelling passages regarding the operation and mission of the church, what I am saying is this is one of the most compelling passages regarding how you are to operate and live in the world, and me too!

I know that when we talk about the church, “The church should do this or that, or should be operating this way or that way,” we may think that means church leaders are to do these things. That is not what it means to talk about the church. If you are a Christian, then you are the church. It is not that the elders/pastors are the church or the deacons are the church or the staff is the church or the Sunday school teachers are the church – they all are, of course, but so are you if you are truly a follower of Christ. The church in the Bible is the people of God, saved by faith. Please understand that. We are the church. Everyone in the world who belongs to God by faith in Christ, they too are the church.

And so after Paul speaks in our passage to Timothy about his desire to come to him, he then turns and speaks not just to Timothy but to you and to me. He has a message for us, and his message is from our Lord. And so I want to invite you to stay with me this morning, because this is important and this should be directive for your life. I want us all to get up on Monday morning with a new sense of direction and enthusiasm, knowing how we can better live as we have been called to live for the glory of our Savior! So, we are all in this together, right? This is for you and this is for me.

Let’s look at this in two parts. First verse 14 and the first part of 15, and then let’s look at the last part of 15. So first…

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 (1 Timothy 3:14-15a)

Paul first speaks directly to Timothy when he says, “I hope to come to you soon.” Paul knew that he wanted to visit Timothy and the church at Ephesus, but he was also very aware that he was not in full control of his schedule. For much of Paul’s life, God moved him around to places he would not choose to go. Paul was a servant, he calls himself a slave of Christ. This means what it means. He was subject to whatever God chose for him. Would he make it back to Ephesus, to Timothy? He didn’t know. Did he make it back? We really don’t know for sure, only that he wanted to. But what we see here is important. Paul, knowing that God had some very important and specific instructions for the church and that God may have other plans for him to prevent him from actually going there, he wrote this letter. He wanted a face to face encounter with Timothy, but more important than that was that he communicate truth given to him by God, even if it meant through a letter.

Paul may have been disappointed, but it is easy for us to see why God chose to hold him back. If God had not held him back, then we would not have this letter for our instruction. So we benefit through what may have been Paul’s disappointment. Do you see that? God is all wise in His plans. Our disappointments may benefit others. God works for our good and for the good of all of His children, right? God sends you here or there, God gives this or that for you to do and sometimes we may honestly say, “I don’t really want to be here or do this thing.” But what we can do is say, “As long as I am here, as long as I am doing this thing, how can I glorify God in it? How can I make Him known wherever I am, in whatever I am doing?” Right? We have benefited from God holding Paul back from visiting Timothy face to face in that we have this letter to look at and understand together.

Paul goes on in verse 15 to say: “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.” Here we have Paul’s stated purpose of this letter as a whole. He is writing this letter so that we, Christians, will know how to behave in the household of God. That is why he wrote this letter, that is why he wanted to visit Timothy in Ephesus. This is what was burning strong in Paul’s heart. And this is what Paul has been talking about to us. He is talking about living, how we are to live as the church.

The church, you and I as believers, we are the household of God. The church is God’s. As believers, as God’s people we have a responsibility to live according to His ways. We all understand the idea of a household. We have all been a part of one. Every household has its rules and its ways. There are certain expectations for each household. In God’s household He sets the rules and defines its ways. God has built this household. Here are some of the ways He has helped us to see this truth…

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:6)

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Further in 1 Timothy 3:15 he says, describing the church, “which is the church of the living God.” The church, all Christians, belong to God. We are His.

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 (1 Timothy 3:14-15a)

Paul is making some firm statements here that indicate, teach us that he is writing for a purpose, that is so we will know how to live in God’s household, as God’s household, as those who belong to God, the true and living God. That is his point so far. We get the understanding that we are not of our own household, making our own way, living out our own ideas, making our own rules, going after whatever we want to go after, but we are living in a household where another determines what is right and wrong, what is good and what is bad, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. It is the same strong and radical idea that we get from 1 Corinthians 6…

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

God purchased us with the blood of His Son. We are not our own, we were bought with a price, we are now in God’s household, not our own, we are here to live for Him, to glorify Him in all that we do and all that we say. I am pressing this point for a very important reason. First because Paul is pressing this point as it was given to him by God, and secondly because of the next thing that Paul says in our passage this morning.

God has given us, those who now belong to Him, a very important thing to do, a hugely important thing to do. Paul tells us this by simply giving a description of the church. He says that the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Now remember, this is speaking of you as a member of the household of God, this says that each of us are to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth,” and that collectively we are to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

Paul here uses architectural or building terms to describe our responsibility as people who belong to Him. As the church we are to be pillars and a buttress, or you could say support, of the truth. So as those who have been bought by the blood of Christ this is for us.

In Ephesus there was a huge architectural structure that would be a vivid picture for what Paul is describing here. One of the seven wonders of the world at this time was a temple to the goddess Diana. It had twenty-seven huge pillars made of marble, and these pillars were holding up a massive roof. The pillars were needed for this purpose, without them a roof would not be possible. A buttress is a foundational support structure. Such a massive structure could not exist without a firm, strong, level foundation. So what Paul is saying is that the church, you and me, we are the pillars and the support for truth. We are it in this world. Like pillars and a foundation hold up a building, we are to hold up the truth, we have been appointed for this, we are to be the ones who hold up the truth.

Now this is important in this world where there is much confusion about truth. But really, this is not new. Even in Jesus’ day truth was not understood and was often questioned. When Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, Pilate said to Jesus in John 18:38, “What is truth?” Do you remember why Pilate asked the question? He asked the question because Jesus had just informed him that He came into the world to do what? To bear witness to the truth! John 18:37: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”

Jesus came to bear witness to the truth, He came to uphold the truth. Now Jesus is gone from this world, He has gone into the heavens and He has left His people, the church, to do what? To do what He did – to bear witness to or to uphold truth.

We are not here to be popular with the mainstream of people, we are not here to speak just for ourselves or on our own behalf, we are not here to develop our own philosophies for living, we are here to live for Him and to uphold His truth. We are to be like Christ and do as He did. And this does not make us very popular. Knowing that speaking truth will not always be a popular thing to do, Paul in his second letter to Timothy says this…

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

This is a call for us to stand in our culture, to stand with God’s truth, the truths of His Word. There are at least two major hurdles for us here. Two major hurdles for us when it comes to standing firm in and with God’s truths from His Word. There first are outside pressures to conform to things other than God’s Word, and second there is internal pressure, our own hearts that tempt us to not stand because of sinful desires.

Outside pressures are always abundant. We live in a world where temptations are all around. People are all around pressuring us to believe what is not true. Philosophers are all around, new philosophies are born daily, new ideas on how to live, what to worship, who to follow.

Many of you know that here at our church we have for years now taught classes on biblical counseling. We have a very active and busy biblical counseling ministry here, and in addition to counseling individuals and couples and families, we have trained many on how to help others from God’s Word. Not to help just by listening or just by giving some kind of nice advice, but how to counsel using the truth of God’s Word. God says that the Bible is, from Hebrews 4:12, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” And 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We take this to mean that the Bible is sufficient and able to address the problems we face in life. God’s truth is sufficient to help us deal with our difficulties. Our counseling ministry is based on this belief.

But many will counsel, and we are all guilty at times of stooping to other philosophies, some of which are counter to the Bible, in giving advice. In fact this week on Wednesday we are wrapping up our counseling training with a lesson on some of the most popular philosophies out there by which many are counseled that are contrary to the Bible. Eric Mehalko will be teaching that session. And what we know is that some of these philosophies have so infiltrated our minds and we don’t even realize it. And so we all have to be careful, we have to constantly be asking the questions of ourselves, “What do I believe, why am I saying and doing these things, do they line up with the Bible, or did I get this somewhere else?” Are we testing our thoughts, our counsel, against the Bible, which is to be the standard of truth for every believer?

How are we to respond to those who sin terribly against us? How are we to deal with a rebellious child? What do we do with conflict in the church? How am I to manage my money? What is my role as a husband in my marriage? Is it okay for women to preach in the church? What about same-sex marriage? Is life really precious? How do I know it is? What will happen when people die? Why am I depressed? What do I do with my anger? Why do I sometimes feel hopeless? Do I always have to obey my parents? And about a million other questions. We all have questions, we all have struggles, where do we go for answers? Do we go to the source of truth? Are we, in how we answer these questions, are we living as pillars and supports of the truth?

Another way we struggle with truth has to do with our own hearts. Sometimes, yes, we know the truth, but in the weakness of our flesh we don’t want to live it. And so we don’t, and as we turn from it we are failing to uphold it. This is a problem of worship and of belief. Sometimes we simply don’t believe that God knows best and that He deeply loves us, and so we choose another way that says, “No thanks God, I’ll do my own thing.” This calls for repentance, this calls for a turning back to our first love. Crying out to God for help, remembering who we are in Christ, remembering what He has done for us, remembering from where we have come. Dying to self, turning back to God. He has called us to more, He has entrusted us with His truth.

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” We have been commanded by God to go and to tell, to go and to make disciples. Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We do this by how we live and by what we say. We are God-appointed proclaimers of the truth! Will we, as a church, will we stand on God’s truth?

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. (1 Timothy 3:14-15)