A Study of 1 Tim.3:14-16
Is it necessary for believers, whether in Paul’s time or in the present age, to consider our conduct in the local Church of which we are members? God expects this and Paul thought it was necessary for he opens this section of his letter by stating; “I am writing you these instructions so that……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.” <1 Tim.3:14-15 (NIV)>. Whether it be our own family household, and just as important, in the local assembly (Church) of believers, there must be some standard of conduct that is acceptable and required of each and all of the members. Paul has already addressed some aspects of conduct in his instructions to Timothy in regards to his choice and appointment of Bishops and Deacons, and to the conduct of women in the church <1 Tim.2:9-10 NIV >, which is also applicable to the men as well; but let us look at some other aspects of conduct that affect the function of the local Church.
Most important is the fact that all members including leaders understand the importance of the leadership of The Holy Spirit; this is important because The Holy Spirit represents Christ, and is sent by God to guide us; “”If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” <Jn.14:15-17; 26 (NIV)>…. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” <Jn.16:13-14 (NIV)>; and His guidance in necessary for leaders and members alike especially in these days where the truth of Scripture is being challenged. Believers must therefore take this leadership very seriously and depend entirely upon, and continually pursue the leadership and guidance of The Holy Spirit. When this conduct is evident, most, if not all other difficulties can be overcome: “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” <2 Chron.31:21 (NIV)>.
Spiritual unity is another factor that can influence our conduct so that divisions can be avoided in the Church; and here we need to remember Christ’s teaching and instructions to His disciples <Jn.17:22-23; Eph.4:3-6>. Spiritual love and care for each other should be that mark of Christian conduct <1 Jn.3:17-19>: spiritual purity is a necessary Christian conduct <1 Cor.5:1>.
Maintaining and nurturing the body (Church) is another necessary conduct <2 Cor.6:16-17; 7:1>; and so is Church discipline <1 Cor.5:1-2>. Another misconduct that we face today in many churches is that of quarrels, fights, and personality conflicts causing divisions <Rom.16:17-18; 1 Cor.1:10-12>; and further to these is the dissatisfaction with leadership by some which can easily spread among the membership <Num.16:1-3, 19-21; Heb.13:17>. Therefore, our conduct in the House of God is an absolute requirement and we should always be aware of our demeanour.
The reason for this comment by Paul is observed at the end of his statement: “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”; and this truth is the “mystery of godliness” that should influence our conduct; our Lord Jesus Christ is here described as that mystery; a mystery that has been finally revealed to all believers <see Rom.11:25; Col.1:26-27>, and the fact that Jesus Christ has been vindicated in His death and resurrection proving Him to be The Son of God, should be the motivation that controls our conduct, not only in the Church but in our everyday life! “…the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” <3:16 (NIV)>.
In essence, what Paul is implying to Timothy, and to the members of the Church at Ephesus is, that what is required of Bishops, Elders, and Deacons is also applicable to all the members of the Church, and all must exhibit the same characteristics: “be above reproach, …. temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to… [be taught] … not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. …. worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. …. keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” <1 Tim.3:2-5, 8-10 (NIV)>. The behaviour of believers in Christ is of primary importance, for the Church (believers) must uphold the truth as a testimony to unbelievers, Christ Himself is truth and the foundation of the Church <see 1 Cor.3:11>, and we must understand that there is a certain demeanor that should characterize all believers. One of the most deplorable evils of our present generation is that of irreverence or the lack of respect for God, and believers must be very conscious of our speech and conversation, our manner of life, the company we keep, the associations we establish; for Satan uses all these to shape our minds and can lead to disarray, bring criticism and dishonour to Christ, and cause the message of the gospel to be mocked by unbelievers <see 1 Cor.10:12>.
Our Lord Jesus Christ not only died to bring us forgiveness, but also to bring about a new life of godliness in us and in His Church; “…. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” <Eph.5:25-26 (NIV)>.
“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” [NATURAL DRIFT FROM HOLINESS; Citation: D. A. Carson, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today (7-31-00); from Perfect Illustrations].