God's Household: Upholder of the Truth - 1 Timothy 3:14-16

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I’m sure you have all heard the phrase that something was functioning as “a well-oiled machine”
Usually that phrase refers to some system that is functioning optimally. People were doing their jobs, tasks were being accomplished, and there were no hangups in the process.
Not long ago I purchased a project truck to fix up. It had a bad oil pressure sensor that needed to be replaced. This sensor is critical for the truck to know if the engine was receiving sufficient oil. If an engine does not get the oil it needs, it starts making a lot of extra noise. It pings, it ticks, rattles, it knocks. It starts having problems firing as it should, and begins running less efficiently. Oil serves to both lubricate and cool the engine parts. Without that oil, the parts begin to rub, they begin to stick, and they get damaged. The added heat warps parts, turns the oil that is left into sludge, and eventually the entire engine will grind to a halt, being completely seized up. Because of the damage that is caused, the only real solution is to replace the engine.
On the other hand. If the engine is well-oiled, the moving parts will glide with very little friction. The oil lubricates and cools, and the engine can accomplish its designed task. With regular maintenance, a well oiled engine can last for many many years.
God has given instructions for his church that, if followed, will keep her functioning as a well-oiled machine as she accomplished her God-given design. But what is that design? What is the church, and what is it that she is to be doing?
This morning we are going to take a brief departure from the book of Judges to consider a passage from the NT. The name of our Church is Pillar Fellowship. Have you ever considered “Why that name?” This sermon is the answer.
If you would open your Bibles 1 Timothy 3. The first 13 verses of the chapter outline the qualifications of elders and deacons within the church. These are to be men of high moral character. Above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, etc.
What we learn from the text that we will examine today, is that God has given these leaders, and these qualifications, in order to show forth how the church of God should function. These things are to be in place because of what the church is.
How we behave as God’s church is directly related to what the church is.
Because of what the church is and because of the mission of the church, the leaders are to function in these ways.
So what is the church? What is her mission?
Let’s read our text for this morning.
1 Timothy 3:14–16 ESV
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.
Paul begins this paragraph after laying out the qualifications of the elders and deacons, letting Timothy know the reason why is he writing these things.
In many way, this paragraph serves as the purpose statement for the entire letter. This is why Paul is writing. He desires to come and teach, but these things are simply too important for him to wait to communicate.
Have you ever had a piece of information so important or so pressing that you wanted to share it with someone that you just couldn’t wait to tell it to them in person so you gave them a phone call?
In Paul’s day, there was no telephone. No telegraph. No email. No text messaging. If you wanted to communicate with someone you had to show up in person or send a letter. Paul knows that he has critical information for the health of the church, but since he doesn’t know exactly when it is that he will be able come, he writes this letter to communicate this vital information about the qualifications of the leadership of the church among other things.
Why is it important to know these things?
Paul says “I write these things to you, so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself.
Paul wants his readers to know particular information, and that particular information ought to impact how they behave, how they conduct themselves.
He uses the word ought. How one ought to conduct himself.
It is necessary to live this way. These aren’t suggestions, nor recommendations. This isn’t just information and you can take it or leave it. There is moral weight to these things. There is significance to these things beyond simply helpful information.
Paul then goes on to give three descriptions of what the church is. He says the church is the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.
We need to pause to ask “why?” Why does Paul give all these analogies about what the church is?
What Paul needs us to see is the connection between what the church is and how that must impact how we conduct ourselves.
Who you are impacts what you do.
This is why the issue of identity is such a crucial issue. If you don’t know who you are and why you exist, you will struggle.
This is true of companies. Studies have shown that companies that are clear about who they are and why they are in business have the most success.
This is true of individuals. Those who have a clear sense of identity and purpose are the most well-adjusted. Furthermore, the identity you embrace will impact your behavior, for good or ill. You as an individual are made in the image of God. You were created to be his representative on the earth and proclaim the glory of God. If you are in Christ, your identify should be found in him. When we embrace who we are in Christ, that will have a tremendous impact on how we live.
This is true of churches. When we first set out to launch Pillar Fellowship, I realized that I desperately needed to have a good handle on biblical ecclesiology, or the study of the church. If I was going to plant a church, I needed to know what I was planting. As I studied, this passage was instructive and we ended up naming the church Pillar Fellowship from this text. Churches must be clear on who they are, as that will set the stage for how they live. It is that connection that Paul wants us to make. Who you are impacts what you do.
So, Paul says I’m writing these things because they are too urgent to wait until I come, and I write them so that as you consider what the church is, it will impact how you behave.
What is the church?
First, we are the household of God, and as such, we are to embody the truth, relationally.

As God’s household, we embody the truth, relationally

Scripture often speaks of Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ. When we receive Christ, we become Children of God.
John 1:12 ESV
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
We are adopted into God’s family and given all the rights and privileges thereof.
Romans 8:14–17 ESV
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
As God’s children, we are called to relate to each other as a family. There are dozens of one-another passages and commands in Scripture. Each one of those assumes that something is true: that we are in relationship with one another and spend time with one another. You cannot sacrificially love, serve, edify, and encourage those whom you never see.
I’m confident that each of us have experienced some level of familial dysfunction. When these occur it is always painful and challenging to navigate. Sin is always damaging to relationships.
God knew that and provided instructions for how husbands are to relate to their wives, wives to husbands, children to parents and parents to children. We we return to the Word of God, we find all the instruction that we need to healthy family relationships....if we are willing to humble ourselves and live according to it.
The same is true for God’s household. Just as sin can mess up family relationships, sin can mess up church family relationships. Just like we might be tempted to strive for our own agenda’s in our family, we are tempted to strive for our own agenda with our church family.
The antidote to this is to live Gospel-empowered, Gospel-infused, and Gospel informed lives.
A church family will be tempted to slide into dysfunction over things that really don’t matter in the long run, just like a natural family. When those temptations arise, we have an opportunity to embody the truth of God’s word as we live out the one-anothers.
Listen to this passage in Phil 2:1-8
Philippians 2:1–8 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We have an opportunity, as God’s household, to embody the truth of God’s word, to embody the Gospel of Christ as we willingly lay aside our own agenda for the sake of loving those around us. We can show deference to one another, we can lay aside our own desires and every time we practice the one anothers, we are embodying biblical truth for the world to see.
As we embody the truth relationally, I hope we would be able to truthfully sing the song “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. Washed in the fountain. Cleansed by his blood. Join heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod. For I’m part of the family. The Family of God.”
When we live out the Gospel in our relationships with one another as God’s household, we embody the truth, relationally.

As a pillar, we uphold the truth, declarationally

After saying we are God’s household, Paul also notes that we are the church of the living God.
This is important to note. No other false church, no other religion, has a living God.Our god is not formed by stones, wood, or anything else in nature, but rather he is the one who made the trees and the stones that people use to fashion their idols. Our God is alive!
Because he is alive, he is active. To be living is to be active. Our God is not like Baal who was taunted by Elijah “maybe he’s sleeping and you have to wake him up” No, he is alive and active in his creation!
And because he is alive and active, we also know that he speaks. He is not silent! He has given us his word, and His Spirit dwells within his people.
He is a living God who has revealed himself to us and given us instruction how to best live. And now we, as God’s church, His household, are commanded to uphold the truth of His Word which he has spoken.
We are to be Pillars of truth, upholding the truth, declarationally. I realize I’ve made up a word there, but it is instructive for us on how we uphold the word of God. This church is not called to be passive, but active in her proclamation of the truth.
I am a bi-vocational pastor, and I run my own electrical business. From time to time I’m around the carpenters as they frame things up. Some of the projects that are most fun are the homes that are getting drastically remodeled. Walls are opened up, and things are stripped down. Some walls divided space into rooms are torn down to open up the floor plan.
In this process, the carpenters have to identify which walls are load bearing walls. Not every wall can simply be torn down without consequence. Those walls serve a vital function in holding up the house.
As a pillar of the truth, we are called to uphold the truth. Not in the sense that if we didn’t exist the truth would cease to be. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the word of the Lord endures forever, amen?
But there is the reality that God has entrusted to us the truth of His word, and we are called uphold that truth. We must be a people that can be depended upon as a source of God’s truth.
This does not mean that we simply believe correct things, though it certainly must start there. But we must be active in communicating that truth to others.
I think of the words of Paul in Col 1:28
Colossians 1:28 ESV
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
When there are things going on in the world around us, are we the kind of people that will be approached for advice on processing those events?
I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine who fielded dozens of phone calls after the events on Sept 11th, 2001. He wasn’t a pastor, but he upheld the truth. When the world stood still that day, and it seemed that all hell was about to break loose, who did those individuals turn to? They turned to the one they knew was a source of truth. But the only way that they could do that was he had previously built relationships with those individuals and had upheld the truth throughout.
What privilege to be God’s spokesman! What an opportunity to love the world around us as we declare God’s truth!
When Jesus issued the Great Commission in Matt 28, when he called his disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, and when Paul speaks of his evangelism efforts as speaking of nothing but Christ and Him crucified, we were called to a life of upholding the truth as the church of the living God. As a pillar, we uphold the truth declarationally.

As a buttress, we support and defend the truth, tenaciously

Depending on what translation you are using today, you might be confused with the wording on the screen and in your bulletin insert. I mean, what even is a buttress anyway?
I”m preaching from the NASB this morning, and the text says “the Pillar and support of the truth” NKJV, CSB, and NIV say foundation, KJV says ground, and NET says bulwark, and the LEB says mainstay. The ESV gives us buttress
The difference in translation, and the use of words that don’t make it into our every day vocabulary reveals a level of difficulty with this word and how to bring it into English. This is the only place in all the Scriptures where this word is used, and there is some debate about how we ought to understand this word.
I believe there are two ideas present in this word. The first has to do with support.
This week we were up at my in-laws place as one of Lizzy’s brother’s was getting married. They asked me to help run sound for an outdoor wedding. The sound board was going to sit outside in the sun so I had to find a way to provide shade so that the sun wouldn’t damage the electronics. We found a a large picnic table style umbrella, but we had trouble finding a base to support it. In order for the umbrella to not tip or be blown over, there needed to be a large base that would support the weight. Most of the time, these bases, in addition to being heavy, are wider at the bottom than at the time. This is designed to provide more support so that whatever it is holding can do it’s work.
A buttress, a bulwark, or a mainstay serves a similar purpose. It fortifies a structure in order help it remain upright so that it will be less prone to collapse.
But often a buttress does more. Not only does it support the structure, but it fortifies it against outside attack. It is a defensive structure that adds strength in order that the walls not collapse under pressure from invading forces. It supports. It fortifies.
If we are to be a buttress, a bulwark, or a mainstay of the truth, what then are the implications for us?
Is our church life ordered in such a way that we support the truth or does our behavior bring shame and reproach upon Christ? Do we aid in the pillar work of proclaiming and upholding the truth?
If we think about the defensive concept, do we contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints as Jude speaks of in his epistle?
Do we engage with truth-starved world around us, shining light into the darkness, exposing its futility?
When the truth is attacked, do we run and hide? Or do we support and defend what we know is true?
I use the word tenaciously. This has become one of my favorite words in ministry life. It word that speaks of persistence, a determination, almost a godly stubbornness that digs in your heals and keeps pressing on. We need tenacity in our defense and support of the truth.
What is the truth that we are defending?
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
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.
This is our confession. This is what we believe! This is how great our God is! He entered into humanity! He was vindicated through his resurrection! The nations have heard and have believed in him! He is now in glory awaiting the day when he shall come again!
This is the truth we get to embody! This is truth we get to uphold! This is the truth we get to support and defend.
Ever since I began studying God’s word more in high school and college, I came to the realization that “going to church” doesn’t mean showing up at a building. The people are the church.This is just a building. Shawnee Bible Church would still exist if this building burned down, because the people would still find a place to gather as the church. I’ve sought to instill in my children that the church is the people.
To that end I’ve sought to use intentional language about how I speak of our gathering place. I have often said “We’re going to where Pillar Fellowship meets”. Recently I’ve added a few more phrases that help communicate this concept. One pastor calls it the church house. It’s where the church gathers for family meetings. We are God’s household.
Another calls it an embassy. We are God’s representatives. We have come together to receive fresh marching orders from the King of kings. As we go out into the world, we are to live and act as ambassadors of our Lord. This means we do as he commands and we speak as he would have us speak. We are to uphold the truth.
In my own home I’ve started calling our meeting place the armory. We live a world that is a constant spiritual battlefield. Satan and his demons would love to see us make shipwreck of our faith. We gather together to be equipped for battle against the spiritual forces of darkness. We fortify ourselves through mutual encouragement and the proclamation of the word from the pulpit to stand against the enemy that we might go into the world and see others saved. We are a bulwark, a buttress. A defensive structure upholding and supporting truth.
Whatever you call this building, it is most important to know who you are, and then allow that information to inform how you live your life.
You are God’s household. The church of the living God. a Pillar and Buttress of the truth.
Let’s pray.
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