“but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may 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” (1 Tim. 3:15; NASB).
Many years ago, my wife was able to go out of town for a few days to enjoy some long overdue rest at a ladies’ retreat. Before she left, she wrote down a few things to remind me what needed to be done to take care of our two young children. It was pretty basic. She included things like, “At supper time, feed them.…At bed time, bathe them and put pajamas on them.…In the morning, feed them something healthy (not just chocolate cake).…Be sure to brush their hair before they go to church on Sunday.…”
Okay, it wasn’t quite that basic, but she did remind me of a number of things that needed to be done — things that I wasn’t aware happened routinely with the girls. So I read the notes, and we survived for three whole nights and four entire days by ourselves (but it was good she came home when she did; even I was tired of chocolate cake and ice cream for breakfast!).
After having spent three years teaching, discipling and training the Ephesian church, Paul left Timothy behind as their pastor. It was not long, however, before some detrimental influences began to sneak their way into the church. So Paul wrote Timothy a letter not only to encourage him as a pastor, but to instruct the entire church about how to live with one another. Like my wife’s letter, they were simple reminders about the function and conduct of the church and its members.
Why were his words so significant? Because the mission of the church is eternal in nature. The family of God, Paul says, is a gathering not just of people who believe in a god, but of people who are children of the living God! Their hope and salvation is secured by the fact that God is alive (4:10). And not only that, but Paul’s main reason for writing was to remind Timothy and the Ephesians that the church is a vehicle that God has chosen to demonstrate and uphold His truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Truth is not optional. It is unchanging, firm, and the means God uses to sanctify His people (see Jn. 17:17). So the work of the church is clear and simple (which is not to be confused with easy) — we defend, uphold, teach, and love the truth of God.
Each member has been placed within a specific church family by God for His purpose of validating His truth. Each member declares or denies with his life the greatness of God and the majesty of Christ’s salvation. Each member depicts or disproves what it means to love and be loved. Each member’s life and activity within the church either validates or disavows God and His truth to a watching world.
God’s truth in me and me living truthfully in the church is God’s plan for demonstrating His truth.