Getting Serious About Our Daily Behavior
1 Timothy 3:14,15
"These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:14,15, KJV).
These are the words of the apostle Paul written to the young preacher, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 3:14,15 as it appears in the King James Version. Paul hoped to return to Ephesus soon, but he knew there might be some delay.
Instruction was needed so he said: "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly, but if I tarry long...," then he gave the instruction.
Here's the same text, from the NIV: "... 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."
Please consider four distinct phrases in the text. And with these phrases, one signficiant point is --> THAT THE VERY NATURE OF THE CHURCH WE ARE A PART OF REQUIRES OF US A CERTAIN KIND OF BEHAVIOR.
1. OBLIGATORY CONDUCT: "...how thou oughtest to behave thyself..."
Paul appears to have been uncertain how long circumstances would require him to be absent. He expected to return but it was possible that his hope of returning soon would be disappointed. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul knew the truth of the gospel; but he didn't always know exactly what his personal circumstances would be. Likewise, we can know God's instructions for us, given in His Word. We cannot predict the future or know all the mysteries of His providence.
But, whatever his personal circumstances; whatever happened to him - he wanted to say something to Timothy I'm sure he had said before: "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself ..." In the NIV - "... 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."
It is right, that we should behave appropriately - when we come to the building or place of worship, and when we assemble to study and worship. Most of us can remember one of the earliest lessons we learned in life was, how to behave in church. You don't talk, or pass notes or play with toys. You listen to the preacher, you stay awake, and you try not to make any noise. Well, all of that is good I believe; it is right and proper to maintain a standard of discipline and self-control in the assembly.
But, Paul's statement here goes beyond that. I believe it certainly includes how we conduct ourselves in the assembly, but it goes beyond that. Paul is reminding Timothy of how he should live or behave as a member of the household of God. There is, for Christians, a standard of conduct; a way of life or behavior and we are obligated to LIVE THAT WAY.
This is about HOW PEOPLE OUGHT TO CONDUCT THEMSELVES because they are members of the house of God. Therefore, this is not limited to the assembly; IN FACT, THIS IS A DAILY THING. When I first become a Christian; when I become a member of the household of God, one thing I need to have in my mind is - - I AM COMMITTING MYSELF TO A STANDARD OF BEHAVIOR.
YES - I'm having my sins forgiven. YES - I'm a recipient of the grace of God, and I share in the benefit of Christ's death, and I'm added to the Lord's body. But there is another thought I need to have. When I become a Christian, Iam committing myself to a standard of behavior. I am saying "yes" to the call of God through the gospel. I am also saying "yes" to a way of life; a standard of daily behavior (see Eph. 4:1).
Let me make these three observations about this:
THIS STANDARD OF BEHAVIOR IS BASED ON THE HOLINESS OF GOD. 1 Pet. 1:13-16
THIS STANDARD OF BEHAVIOR IS CLEARLY TAUGHT IN THE SCRIPTURES. Phil. 1:27, Eph. 3:4
THIS STANDARD OF BEHAVIOR IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR INFLUENCE. Phil. 2:12-16
So, the apostle Paul wanted to visit Timothy and he anticipated being able to do this soon; but he said - "If I am delayed," let me remind you; let me give you some instruction, "...that you may know how one ought to behave..." There is a way of life, decreed by God. There is a standard, and when we obey the gospel, we are pledging our hearts and lives to the obligation of that way of life.
NOW - here's the way we might be tempted to study the rest of verse 15.
Paul said something to Timothy about behavior - then he broke into a new, unrelated subject - having to do with the church, and the nature of the church. Paul says: "Timothy, behave yourself," and after saying that he took up another line of thought, about the church and what the church is. I don't think that's the way we ought to study this!
Here, I believe, is the more reasonable approach.
In the first part of verse 15 reference is made to this standard of behavior; how we ought to live, or behave. Then - to help us recognize the importance of this; to enforce and confirm this obligation to behave -- the nature of the church is described. In other words -- I obey the gospel, and I become a part of the household of God. I am now in the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth .... As I look at these expressions about the church, and I think about my role, my presence in the household of God -- THAT HELPS ME TO BE SERIOUS ABOUT THE OBLIGATION TO LIVE AS I SHOULD LIVE.
So - all of this in verse 15 is connected: the better acquainted I am with the nature of the church, the better prepared and motivated I am to live as I should. The next phrase is:
2. THE HOUSE OF GOD: "...in the house of God..."
The church is God's house, God's family. When I hear the gospel of Christ, believe in Him and obey Him, I am born into God's family; I become a member of God's household. Now, there are certain things we understand about being in a family, or being a part of a household. I'm under the authority of the Head of the family I'm in. I must participate, as an active member of the family, doing what I'm able to do.
I obey the gospel -- I am born into God's family -- to live under the authority of the head of the family, and to be an active participate in the activities of the family. But also, there is a standard of behavior I am obligated to! Families have values; in any household, there are standards. In the house of God, the standard is God's will. God's will in regard to thoughts and attitudes .. God's will as to words and deeds ... God's law of marriage; God's instructions as to individual purity, and our dealings with others. In the house of God, His law is the standard.
3. THE CHURCH: "... is the church of the living God..."
In this description, the church is the "church of the living God." The word "church" means people who have been called out. God calls sinners; God calls people through His message, the gospel. Those who believe and obey that message became members of the church - the church is THE SAVED. Here, the body of the saved is designated as the church of the living God. Perhaps there is an emphasis here on something of particular significance for the Gentiles who responded to the gospel. God had called people out of the pagan world - of immorality and idolatry. God had called them out of the pagan world to be saved and change their lives. For those who accepted this call, no longer would they bow down to idols and live the carnal lifestyle that was associated with idolatry. They would now be part of the church - the church "of the living God."
Again, this fact becomes a motive for the behavior that pleases God. When I consider that I'm a member of the church of the living God; when I take into my heart just that truth -- It becomes another motive, another reason -- to fully engage myself in godly behavior every day.
4. THE CHURCH IS DESCRIBED AS "...the pillar and ground of the truth..."
Let's deal with this, by noting what this CANNOT MEAN.
This cannot mean that the church creates truth. The church is saved people... people, even though saved, do not have the power or authority to create truth.
Likewise, this cannot mean that the church preserves the truth. Whether people believe the truth or not, or preach it or not -- THE TRUTH DOES NOT DIE; it continues through the ages to be truth.
So we do not create the truth and we do not singularly preserve it; we hear it, then decide if we are going to obey it, defend it and preach it. The church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" NOT IN THE CREATION OF TRUTH, OR THE PRESERVATION OF THE TRUTH ... BUT IN THE PRESENTATION OF TRUTH.
The expression "pillar and ground" is suggestive of strength - and the Lord's church, as it ought to be, should be strong in the presentation of truth. No institution; no group of people should be stronger than the church in the matter of PROCLAIMING AND PRESENTING THE TRUTH. As members of the Lord's church preach the truth, defend it, and support those who proclaim it ... as we teach the truth in our classes, and worship according to the truth - THERE IS THIS STRENGTH so significant and intense, IT CAN BE SAID -- THE CHURCH IS THE "PILLAR and GROUND" of the truth.
The truth of God - the gospel message revealed by God was intrusted to the THE PEOPLE OF GOD, THE CHURCH. Every member of the Lord's church should have some involvement in this responsibility. By your faithful and generous contributions to the Lord's work ... Through your prayers for teachers and preachers ... Through your own personal efforts to teach people ... In these and other ways - we become involved in
THE PROCLAMATION OF GOD'S TRUTH TO THE WORLD.
This commitment to God's truth is our strength. The people of the world feel no interest in preaching God's truth. The government wasn't given this duty. WE - God's people - are designated and described as "the pillar and ground of the truth."
Now -- not only does that say something about preaching and teaching and defending the gospel -- it also functions to enforce and confirm the importance of my behavior, my conduct. As a Christian I'm part of a body, or an assembly described as THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH. Now if I belong to a body that is distinctive and associated with the truth... my behavior ought to be distinctive, and my lifestyle based on the truth of God.
Do you need to get more serious about your life and behavior as a Christian? This ought to help. Just consider how God's people are identified here: THE HOUSE OF GOD... THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD... THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH. "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 5.8; August 1998