The apostle Paul addresses those questions when he wrote his first letter to his protégé, Timothy. As he closes the first half of his letter (1 Timothy 3:14-16), Paul points out that the church is central to God’s plan to reach the world with the gospel.
In the second half of verse 15, Paul gives us insight into three distinct characteristics of the church. It is the household of God. Sometimes we think of the church as a building. Sometimes we think of the church as people. Paul says it is both. It is a building with pillars and foundations. But it is also a family. A household has a firm structure, but it also is made up of relationships.
The church is a place where the living God dwells. I wonder if we really believe and comprehend that statement. If we truly believed that the living God was in our presence as we gathered to worship on Sunday mornings … would we be so hung up over whether or not we sang hymns or praise songs … would we be so quick to make excuses why we cannot serve … would we be so reluctant to part with our money … would we be so hesitant to welcome guests and newcomers … would we continue to hold grudges rather than forgive … would we so easily give into temptation and practice habits of sin …?
The church protects and promotes the truth. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the Temple of Artemis/Diana in the city of Ephesus. It had 100 pillars that stood 40 feet tall. Some were the gifts of kings and decorated with carvings or gold and jewels. Paul uses that image in saying that the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” The church gives truth a solid foundation. As a column lifts and supports the roof so all can see, so the church lifts truth so the world can see.
As the household of God, the church is made up of transformed individuals. Paul wrote his letter to help Timothy and the Christ followers in Ephesus know how to live and function as a church (14-15a).
In addition, the church is made up of people who believe the truth about Jesus (16). Paul makes six statements about Jesus, grouping them in three pairs.
- Revelation of Jesus – Jesus was revealed through the incarnation and proven right by the resurrection.
- Witnesses of Jesus – Jesus was seen by angels and declared by those who know him.
- Reception of Jesus – Jesus was believed by people and received by heaven.
Since the church has been entrusted with the truth about Jesus, we must stop false teachers, and get people back in touch with the truth. We need to be bold in declaring the truth about Jesus, lifting up the truth so all can see and believe.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 2, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.