In this series of posts on the letters to Timothy and Titus, I have emphasized that Timothy and Titus were co-workers with Paul in planting churches in Ephesus (Timothy) and Crete (Titus). These letters are Paul’s instructions to his co-workers for dealing with various issues such as teaching sound doctrine and warnings against false teaching. About halfway through 1 Timothy Paul expresses another purpose in writing:
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 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 truth. – 1 Timothy 3:14,15 (ESV)
Behavior is very important in the letters to Timothy and Titus and in a future post, I will explore “good works” as a component of church planting.
In today’s post, I want to focus on Paul’s description of the church as the “household of God.” He has earlier implied the connection between a household and God’s church (1 Timothy 3:4, 5) and in 1 Timothy 3:15, he makes it explicit. Describing the community of believers in household imagery occurs elsewhere in the New Testament (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 3:6; 10:21; 1 Peter 2:5; 4:17). God is the owner of the household, and elders are stewards (Titus 1:7) who oversee God’s household according to the “stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). The words translated “steward” and “stewardship” are both built off the Greek word for “house” and convey the idea of management of a household and the code that governs the management. The communities of believers we seek to plant are God’s households and he sets the agenda. Köstenberger comments:
The implicit assumption is that the ultimate authority, and thus the source of order, is God; elders are simply stewards. … Those with authority in the household serve with delegated responsibility and are accountable to God, one another, and the members of the household. This set of assumptions should cause us to take Paul’s instructions that much more seriously. God’s household is not ours to order as we see fit. Inasmuch as God has given us instructions, it is incumbent upon us to follow them.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus, p. 455.
Paul adds a solemnness by describing the household of God as the “church of the living God.” The living God is the savior of all people, the one in whom we have set our hope (1 Timothy 4:10). As the living God, he is present with his people. When Paul gives a solemn charge to Timothy he often frames it citing the presence of God (1 Timothy 5:21; 6:13; 2 Timothy 4:1).
The household of God which is the church of the living God is “a pillar and buttress of truth.” Using building imagery, Paul pictures the church as the household of God supporting and holding up the truth. Köstenberger provides a helpful summary:
Through these two metaphors, “household” and “pillar and foundation of the truth,” Paul powerfully communicates the role of the local church in ways that would have resonated deeply with believers in Ephesus and Crete. They were to regard themselves as family, with unique responsibilities toward each other, similar to members of a household. And they were to stand for the truth against false teachers who sought to undermine right doctrine and godly behavior and were to bear witness to a lost world, so that God’s goodness and graciousness would be made manifest.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus, p. 466.
We must not divide the relational behavior from the defense and proclamation of the truth. Today sometimes we see churches that emphasize the relational picture of the household while neglecting to defend the truth. We sometimes see the emphasis on defending the truth without the relational aspect. Both of these fall short of Paul’s description of the church in 1 Timothy 3:15. Throughout the letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul weaves together the defense of sound doctrine and the relational dynamics of the household of God. Here is one example:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:24,25 ESV).
So as we plant churches, we are seeking to gather disciples together as a family standing firmly for the truth in the presence of the living God. In the next post, we will explore behavior in the household of God.