A Commentary by John Stott

1 Timothy. 3:14-16.  3). The church.

From the qualifications for the pastorate Paul turns to the church in which pastors serve. For the nature of the ministry is determined by the nature of the church.

Here is Paul’s self-conscience apostolic authority. He is planning to visit Timothy in Ephesus. He says so twice (3:14 and 4:13; cf.1 Cor.11:34; 2 Cor.13:10). And when he comes he will personally regulate the affairs of the church. But he senses that he may be delayed. So he writes his instructions for the interim period. Thus by a deliberate providence of God the New Testament letters came to be written and have been preserved for the edification of the church in subsequent generations. If the apostles’ directions regarding the doctrine, ethics, unity and mission of the church had been given only in oral form, the church would have been like a mapless traveller and a rudderless ship. But because the apostolic instructions were written down, we *know* what we would not otherwise have known, namely *how people ought to conduct themselves* in the church.

Paul uses three descriptive expressions of the church, each of which illustrates a different aspect of it, namely *God’s household* or family, *the church of the living God*, and *The pillar and foundation of the truth (15).

a). God’s household.

The word *oikos* can mean either a house (the building) or a household (the family that occupies the building). And Scripture tells us that the church is both God’s house (E.g. 1 Cor.3:16; 1 Pet.2:5) and God’s household (E.g. Heb.3:5-6; 1 Pet.4:17). The two concepts are sometimes brought together (E.g. Eph.2:19ff.). But since in this chapter *oikos* has already been used three times of a household (verses 4, 5, 12; cf. Tit.1:11; 2 Tim.1:16) it seems likely that it has the same connotation in verse 15.

By new birth of the Spirit we become members of the family of God, related to him as our Father and to all fellow believers as our sisters and brothers. Although Paul does not here draw out the implications of our being God’s household or family, he does elsewhere. He emphasizes that as God’s children we have an equal dignity before him, irrespective of age, sex, race or culture (E.g.Gal.3:26ff.); and as sisters and brothers we are called to love, forbear and support one another, enjoying in fact the rich ‘one anotherness’ or reciprocity of the Christian fellowship (E.g. Heb.10:2-3; Gal.6:2).

b). The church of the living God.

On a number of occasions in the Old Testament Yahweh is named ‘the living God’ in deliberate contrast to the lifeless idols of the heathen. Indeed, still today Christian conversion involves turning ‘to God from idols to serve the living and true God’ (1 Thess.1:9; cf. Acts 14:15). But where does the living God live? Joshua answered this question succinctly: ‘The living God is among you.’ (Jos.3:10; cf. Dt.6:15). For this was the essence of God’s covenant promise to Israel: ‘I will dwell among you and be your God, and you shall be my people.’ (E.g. Ex.25:8; 29:45-46; Lv.26:12; cf. Ps.114:2; Ezk.37:27; 2 Cor.6:16). Israel’s consciousness that the living God lived among them profoundly affected their community life. Even an elementary lesson in personal hygiene was based on the fact that the Lord God walked among them and must not see anything indecent (Dt.23:12ff.; cf. Nu.35:34; 1 Ki.6:13). And they were incensed when the heathen presumed to ‘defy’, ‘insult’ or ‘ridicule’ the living God (1 Sam.17:26, 36; 2 Ki.19:4, 16).

An even more vivid consciousness of the presence of the living God should characterize the Christian church today. For we are ‘the temple of the living God’ (2 Cor.6:16; cf. 3:16), ‘a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Eph.2:22). When the members of the congregation are scattered during most of the week it is difficult to remain aware of this reality. But when we come together as *the church (ekklesia)*, ‘assembly’) *of the living God*, every aspect of our common life is enriched by the knowledge of his presence in our midst (Mt.18:20). In our worship we bow down before the living God. Through the reading and exposition of his Word we hear his voice addressing us. We meet him at his table, when he makes himself known to us through the breaking of bread. In our fellowship we love each other as he has loved us. And our witness becomes bolder and more urgent. Indeed, unbelievers coming in may confess that ‘God is really among you’ (1 Cor.14:25).

Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:14-16. c). The pillar and foundation of the truth.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.