Open your Bible, will you, to 1 Timothy. We’re going to be examining the end of chapter 3. We’ve gone through the instruction on overseers and deacons, and now we come to what is a transitional section from verses 14 through 16, the end of this third chapter.
If I were to title the message for this morning and next Lord’s Day, I would entitle it, “The heart of the mission and the message of the church. The heart of the mission and the message of the church.” It is a very small text, really, three verses, and the first one is rather incidental. So really two verses carry the weight of truth in this text. And even though it is small, it fits a very large title. To say we’re going to discuss the heart of the mission and the message of the church and then look at two verses might seem like a pretty big title for such a small section, but it isn’t. It is a very, very potent section, and I want us to get a good grasp on it. This morning we’ll look at the first point: the mission of the church. And then next Lord’s Day morning, we’ll look at the message, or the heart of the message. Today verses 14 and 15, and next time that great marvelous Christian hymn in verse 16.
Now to introduce our thinking to the text, let me just suggest to you that those who have studied the Bible for many years are very much aware of the fact that the more you study the Scripture, the more overwhelmed you are with its vastness. Just this last week, a pastor came up to me back in North Carolina and he said, “I want to ask you about a certain verse.” A very familiar verse, one I know very well, have quoted a myriad of times, have written a commentary on, have discussed many times. And he said to me, “Do you see in this verse such-and-such? I think it’s teaching so-and-so.”
And I said, “Boy, I’ve studied that verse for years; I have never made that connection.” And I kind of walked away from that mulling over in my mind whether in fact he was right, and the verse did suggest that, and thinking to myself, “No matter how many times you look at the Word of God, it always seems as if there is more there; and the deeper you go, the deeper it becomes; and the wider you reach, the wider it seems.”
There is a certain incomprehensibility about the range, the depth, and the breadth of Scripture. It has a vastness that a myriad of lifetimes could never really fully cover. There is a range of truth and a range of knowledge that has a way of dwarfing even the most broad mind, the most grasping mind. And we could spend all of the days of our life studying the Word of God and never come to grips with everything that’s contained in it.
And then you think about the range of ministry or application of that word. A church like ours, a very complex church; many, many ministries. In fact, when we go away to a pastor’s conference, as we have done, we have to be very careful to talk about principles of ministry, because if we talk about actual ministry, people are literally knocked over. They don’t understand a church that has this kind of complexity, a myriad of things that we do that just, you can’t relate to a man out in the country who has eighty-two people; it just doesn’t compute. And so we have to talk about principles, because the complexity of ministry is so vast.
And then so very often too you meet people who have a new kind of ministry. And I ran in to some people a few months ago who are now in what’s called “race track” evangelism. They go to the horse races and evangelize. There’s a chaplain. I don’t know if you know, there’s a jockey’s chaplain ministry, a guy who goes around and holds chapel for jockeys before horse races. I mean, as imaginative as the human mind is, that’s how many ministries there are.
I ran into a guy the other day walking down the street with a white shirt and white pants. He gave me his card and he said, “I have a Christian painting service.” And I don’t know what that means unless they come and paint Bible verses on your house or something. He went on to say how his painting ministry is really glorifying God.
And, you know, there is a range of ministry, there is a range of truth that sometimes seems beyond us. I remember hearing about one church that had a bowling league for left-handed blind people, and thinking, “Boy, now that is really going to the limit of ministry. I mean, how far can you go with this?”
And I think even at Grace Church we come in and out, we flow in and out of a range of ministry that is hard to grasp. People always to me, “I wish we had better communication. I wish we all knew what was going on.”
You want to know something? I don’t even know what’s going on, if that’s any comfort to you. I can’t keep up with all of it; there’s just absolutely no way. I read Grace Today to get my information. If I don’t get my Grace Today, I don’t know what’s going on. There’s no way I can keep up with all of it.
There’s no way personally that I can even answer all the mail that comes to me. I can hardly even go through it. And people are telling me about a myriad of things that are going on in the name of Christ. I try my; best but there’s none of us that can grasp all the range of God’s truth or all the extent of God’s ministry; it’s just incredible. And everywhere I go it seems I am exposed to a whole new range of ministry that people are involved in.
Now having said that, we get sort of a feeling of the vastness and the complexity of ministry, and it’s true. And from time to time it’s good for us to go back to the basics. And that’s what I want to do for you this morning and next time, because that’s what Paul does in this passage. He is concerned with the basics.
Ephesus, the church where Timothy was laboring, obviously was not as sophisticated and complexity as our church might be. But nonetheless, Ephesus needed to go back to the basics. As you know, unlike our church, Ephesus had begun to abandon sound doctrine. Ephesus had begun to cultivate lives of ungodliness, things were falling apart there. People were teaching error. Evil men were in pastoral leadership. All kinds of problems had ensued in that church since the departure of the apostle Paul in the early days.
Paul then leaves Timothy there after his first imprisonment and tells him to set things the way they ought to be. That church needs to get its act together: “You’ve got to straighten things out.” And then he writes back to him this epistle, outlining the most needful things to deal with.
In chapter 1, he started out by pointing to the errors, the other doctrine, verse 3, the fables and endless genealogies, the twisting of the law of God that was going on; those who had put away the faith and made a shipwreck of it, who needed to be and were delivered over to Satan to learn not to blaspheme. He attacks the problems in the church.
In chapter 2, he moves on and talks about the order of the worship, how holy men ought to pray, and how women are to learn in silence, and that their contribution is through childbearing. And then he goes in to chapter 3 and describes how the leaders, the overseers, elders, and pastors are to be qualified to serve; and how the servers, whether they’re male or female, are to be qualified before they can be the servers of the church officially recognized as those who stand in the place of Christ to minister. He is setting in order many, many things in the Ephesian church.
But coming to verses 14 to 16, he really goes right down to the basics and he affirms what is most basic to the church. He reminds Timothy of the heart of the mission and message of the church. It comes at a strategic point, by the way; it is at the very end of the first three chapters and just before the last three chapters. It is at the end of a positive section before a negative section. He has given positive instruction, he is about to give negative instruction, or negative warning. And so it comes at a turning point. It is the very core of the epistle. It is the very heart of the epistle, these three brief verses. They are to remind Timothy what is at the heart of the church, so he can remind the church.
And in the complexity of our church, though we are not in the same kind of problems that that church was with false doctrine and ungodliness, we too need to understand the heart of our mission and message. We can get so involved in the periphery that we lose sight of what we’re really all about. And it’s very important to reaffirm values. Anybody in any kind of leadership position realizes that one of the marks of leadership is to take your people who are under you and continually reidentify your values, so everybody gets on board again as to what you’re all about and where you’re going and what your purpose is. And that’s what we want to do in these verses.
Let’s read them then, verses 14 through 16: “These things write I unto you, hoping to come unto you more quickly; but if I tarry long that, you may know how it is necessary to behave oneself in the household of God, which is the living God’s church, the pillar and foundation of the truth. And by common consent, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the nations, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
Now that brief text embraces the heart of the mission and message of the church. The heart of its mission comes in verse 15. The heart of its message comes in verse 16. And we’ll see that both today and next Lord’s Day.
All right, let’s begin by just giving a little bit of background from verse 14. Look at verse 14: “These things write I unto you, hoping to come unto you more quickly.”
“These things.” What does he mean by that? Some people suggest that these things refers to what he’s just said about bishops and deacons. Some people think it refers to what he said also in chapter 2 about men and women. And others think it refers to what he said in chapter 1 about false doctrine and all of that. Other people feel that it’s probably best that we assign “these things” to everything that is in the whole epistle; and that’s where I would tend to land. Since we know no way to limit that, and since he says, “These things I write,” we can assume that all the things he writes are in view.
So what he is saying here then is, “Here’s the reason I wrote this epistle, that’s what I’m driving at. Here is the underlying reason for this epistle. I’m writing this to you, not only these things already said, but, of course, the things yet to be said.” And there’s no reason to narrow it down any further than that.
Now further beyond that, he says in verse 14, “Hoping to come to you more quickly.” Shortly, more quickly, is a comparative. It actually could be translated – should be “more quickly.” Tachion is a comparative. So, “More quickly I want to come to you, but I’m writing.”
Now there’s another way to look at this, and that would be in a sort of a concessive way. I don’t know if you know what that means, but you can take a present active participle and translate it this way: “These things I’m writing to you, although I hoped to come to you more quickly.” If you translate it that way, and it’s a legitimate translation, what he is saying is, “Because it appears I will be unable to come as I really desired, I am writing so that in the event that I don’t get there at all, you’re going to get the message. You must know these things.” Verse 15, “If I tarry long,” – he says – “you will still know how you ought to behave.”
So it may well be that he is saying, “Look, I’m writing this to you to give you instruction on how one is to conduct himself in the church. And in the event that I never get there, that I’m unable to come, I’m writing to be sure that you have this.”
He did say, by the way, to Titus in chapter 3 of Titus, verse 12, that he wanted to meet him and spend the winter with him in Nicopolis. Nicopolis is on the west coast of Greece, about a third of the way up. That would be the opposite direction of Ephesus which would be to the east. And it seems as though Paul did in fact go there and spend the winter there; and there is no evidence at all that he ever did get to Ephesus, we have no knowledge of that. It may well have been that he never did get there. And in the event that he didn’t, it was definitely the leading of the Spirit of God, of course, that he would set these things in writing so that they would have them since he was unable to come.
So to be certain that they get his instruction, he says, “I’m writing it, although I had hoped to come to you quickly. It may be that I’ll be delayed long.” And it is possible, that’s a third-class conditional, that he may be delayed. “And it is possible I may be.” And we have no knowledge that he ever did get there. So it’s important that he writes these things to them.
Now this was always the passion of Paul; I don’t want to belabor the point. But Paul always wrote to a specific issue and with a great concern in his heart; he wanted the church to be set right. Obviously the church at Ephesus had a place in his heart like few others. It was from the base of that church where he spent three years of his ministry that many other churches were founded. He poured his life into that. He loved and nurtured the men who were the leaders of that church in the original group, and to see it go wrong must have been a heartbreaking thing.
I have watched men of God who have served churches, leave those churches, go to other churches, look back and see the church they once poured their life into begin to disintegrate. I’ve seen some of the anxiety, some of the compassion, some of the pain of that. And Paul must have experienced that in a very, very large measure.
And so, he’s left Timothy there. He writes back and he says, “Hey, Timothy, I want you to know these things, because it’s essential that you properly behave in the church.” And that is the point of the whole epistle. It is establishing proper conduct in the assembly. We call it a pastoral epistle, and here in verse 14 and the first part of 15 we get insight into the purpose of Paul’s writing: to establish proper conduct within the assembly of the redeemed.
Literally, go to verse 15, the text says, “If I tarry long, that you may know” – and by the way, that “you” is singular – “that you, Timothy,” – he is the first object of the letter – “may know how” – and that, by the way, is oida, which means “the possession of a knowledge or skill necessary to accomplish a goal.” It isn’t ethereal knowing, it isn’t just cognitive knowing, it’s knowing in the sense that you have the skill to do, “that you may know how to behave,” but literally it says, “how it is necessary to behave oneself.”
And with that verb form, that present middle infinitive, he says, “Timothy, I want you to know how it is necessary to behave oneself,” so he broadens it to encompass not only Timothy but everybody. “I want you to know how really everybody ought to behave, how it is necessary for people to conduct themselves in the assembly, in the corporate fellowship.”
So this speaks not so much of the personal Christian life, that’s part of it; but it speaks of our role and our behavior and our conduct as a duly-constituted assembly of redeemed saints. And the present, middle form of the verb, “how it is necessary to behave oneself,” is speaking not of an isolated action or isolated actions, but of a constant consistent pattern of life. “This is how you ought to always conduct yourself, because you’re a part of the house of God,” it says in the Authorized.
The word “house,” look at that in verse 15, is oikos. It could be translated “house,” because it can refer to the building itself. But here it is best to understand it as “household.” It is not speaking of a building, it is speaking of a family. We take it that way, because it’s used three other times in the chapter; and in each case it’s used that way.
In verse 4, “one that rules well his own house” doesn’t mean he rules the mud and the brick and whatever it was that made the house, it doesn’t mean that. It means he rules the people in the house in the substance of the family. Verse 5, the same word is used again, “rule his own house,” and it refers to his household, his people, his possessions. In verse 12, it is used again of the deacon who rules their children – who rule their children and their own houses. And again it’s the idea of the house as a household, as a family, as a group of people. Second Timothy 1:16, Titus 1:11 uses the same word in the same way.
So we can assume then, basically, pretty safely, that Paul uses oikos, not in the metaphor of a building here, but in the metaphor of a family. And what he is saying is, “You need to know how to behave yourself as a member of the household of God. You belong to the divine family, and that places upon you a tremendous responsibility for conduct when you look at yourself as belonging to God.” These things are for Timothy, but not just for Timothy. That’s why chapter 4:11 says, “These things, Timothy, you are to command and to teach.”
So the whole epistle then is instruction on how to behave as the family of God: proper Christian behavior in the family. And order starts with the leadership, that’s why he specifically identifies Timothy. Verses 14 to 16 really are written as a personal note to Timothy, just like verses 18 to 20 in chapter 1 were. He ended the first section, chapter 1 discussion of the false teaching, with a personal word to Timothy. He ends the second section, chapters 2 and 3, with another personal word to Timothy, calling Timothy to an accountability to follow through on what he has just instructed. And first of all, he says, “You have to know how to conduct yourself, so that everyone else can know how to conduct themselves in the matter of living in the family of God.”
Now that puts Christian conduct and Christian behavior at a high level, doesn’t it? We are called to this kind of behavior to be consistent with who we are. You remember Ephesians 5:1 says, “Walk in love as dear children of God.” We are dear children of God, and so we are to walk as Christ who is God walked, and He walked in love. We are to behave in a way consistent with our family identification.
The second thing he says, and this is so interesting, verse 15, we are told how it is necessary to behave oneself in the household of God, and then it says, “which is” – and I want to give you the proper Greek translation – “the living God’s church,” – and I translate it that way for a better emphasis consistent with the text – “the living God’s church.” There is not a definite article with church, so “the church of the living God” adds a word. But it is the living God’s church. And any time the article is not there, we look for a stress on the character or the nature of something. And so it is a church which by nature is the living God’s church. We are then, note this, not only the household of God, but we are the living God’s church. We are His family. We are His assembly. Ekklēsia means His group of called out ones.
Now this is a wonderfully insightful choice of terms, “a living God’s church.” If you were to go back in the Old Testament with me – and you might do that for just a moment – look at Joshua chapter 3, and verse 10. “And Joshua said, ‘Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.”
“The living God is among you.” Now what is he saying? “He is the living God, and He is going to drive out all those people who worship” – what? – “dead idols.” In contrast to the dead idols of the pagans is the living God.
In 1 Samuel, again the same thing, chapter 17, verse 26, I think it is, “And David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine,” – he’s talking about Goliath – “that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Again the implication is that he represents a dead idol. And what power does a dead idol have against the living God? Verse 36: “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.”
And you come over – and I’m just giving you some samples – to Psalm 42, and verse 2, and it says, “My soul thirsts for God,” – what God? – “for the living God.” Not a dead idol, the living God. Also in Psalm 84, a very similar cry from the psalmist, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out, not just for any God, but for the living God, the living God.”
In Jeremiah 10:10 we read, “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God.” The Lord is the true God; He is the living God. All others are dead idols. And that’s the intended contrast. In Daniel 6:26 it says, “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel;” – Darius is writing this – “for He is the living God.”
So the Old Testament then makes much – and those are only samples – of God as the living God, as opposed to dead idols. How wonderful in this city of Ephesus, this little assembly of believers existing, as it were, as an island in a sea of paganism and cultic worship of dead idols was the assembly of the living God. All around them were those who worshiped dead idols.
The main idol of Ephesus was Diana, her female name; Artemis, his male name, the god of Ephesus. Those people belonged to that pagan cult and worship a dead idol. “They are the assembly of a dead idol, but you are the assembly of the living God.” And so, Paul makes much of Timothy’s and the other believers’ identification.
And, people, at the bottom line of our behavior, at the bottom line of our conduct is that we represent the living God, that we are in the household of the living God, and therefore are to conduct ourselves in a way that is consistent with the one whose name and image we bear. So, he says to Timothy, “Timothy, I want you to know, so that you can disseminate to everyone else how to behave in the church, which is the church belonging to the living God.”
Now what is the heart of this behavior? It is an understanding of these two things: the mission and the message of the church. Now what is the mission? What is the heart of the church’s mission? If we want to know how to behave, what is it that is at the heart of our behavior?
Let’s look at verse 15, very simple statement, but just loaded with tremendous truth. The end of verse 15, he says, “You are to know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the living God’s church,” – and then he gives us a simple statement on the nature of the church, on the mission of the church – “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
If you want to know what the church is, that’s it. We are the pillar and foundation of the truth. This is a wonderful designation, and would have vivid imagery to the Ephesians and to Timothy; for in the heart of the city of Ephesus was the temple of Diana, or the temple of Artemis. Let me tell you a little about it.
It was an incredible piece of architecture; huge, massive, buttress, bulwarking foundations laid on the bottom of it; and rising up to support the roof were 127 pillars supporting the tremendously heavy structure of the roof. The pillars were made of solid marble, studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. Each of those pillars was a gift from a king and represented the nobility of the one who gave the pillar. It was a tribute to the one it represented. The foundations, he uses the word hedraiōma, which basically means “the bulwark,” “the buttressing.” The foundation and the pillar held up that whole structure.
Now capturing some of that vivid imagery in the minds of those people, Paul transitions to the church, which as far as architecture goes in actual physical buildings didn’t probably have much to speak of, if anything, in Ephesus; but, in fact, was the foundation and the pillar that held up the truth. As that foundation in the temple of Diana and those pillars were a testimony to error and lies and paganism and cultic false religion, the church is to be the living support of the truth. Now listen, that is the heart of the mission of the church.
We talked at the very beginning this morning about the wide range of doctrine, the wide range of teaching, the wide range of ministry. We need to go back to this periodically and reaffirm the core of everything, and the heart is this: we are basically in existence to hold up the truth of God. That’s what we’re all about, that’s it. It is not the church who makes the truth, we just support it, we just hold it up. It is God to reveal it. We have it, but it is not our own, it is come from above. We cannot alter it, we cannot modify it, we are to safeguard it. It is a sacred treasure given to us for the glory of God, the good of men; we must hold it as our most precious treasure.
Now what is the truth? Orthodox faith, the revealed truth in Jesus Christ, the gospel, the revelation of salvation, God’s saving truth to the world, the truth of God’s revelation. The heart then, beloved, of the mission of the church is to support the truth. That’s what we’re all about. That is what we are all about. That gives us very clear vision as to the meaning of our existence.
In fact, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John 14:6. He is truth incarnate. So in the same sense that we uphold the truth of God’s Word, we uphold the truth of God’s Son, don’t we? That’s what we’re all about. We exist for that purpose; that’s the heart of our mission.
When we sing songs, we sing songs that articulate the truth we believe. When we teach classes, we teach the truth. You come on Sunday morning, and I preach to you; you come back on Sunday night, and you hear the Word of God again. Why? Because we are here to uphold the truth. Very simple definition of our existence. And no matter how wide the range of our ministry, it is for the upholding, the instructing, the meditating, the learning, the proclaiming of the truth. That’s what we are all about.
I spent some time with a marvelous pioneer missionary who had spent many, many years in Africa on the remote edge of civilization carving out mission stations, damming up, creating water supply, crushing rock to make roads, building houses, generating electricity, just carving out civilization in the midst of wilderness, this very rare and dying breed of man. And we were talking about how he had lived through the Mau Mau Uprisings, and all kinds of people had had their throats slit. And his parents were missionaries in Africa at the time; and he had been through so much, just incredible background. And he was telling me about all the things that they had engaged in, and how they had carved out with nomadic tribes people through Africa Inland Mission wonderful works which God had blessed and so forth. And I said to him, “What’s your goal now?”
“I want to train missionaries,” he said. “I want to train missionaries. We’ve got to send missionaries over there who can crush rocks and make a road to an area where there’s no road. We’ve got to send missionaries who can learn how to build a dam and so they can dam up the water, and to get a generator and create electricity. And if we’re going to reach the remote parts of the world where there are still many unreached peoples, we’ve got to have those kinds of people.”
I said, “Well, what’s the most important ingredient?” He said, “Very simple. The most important ingredient is whoever goes must be a skilled teacher of the Word of God. If he can’t do that, no matter what else he can do, he’s not going to help us, because the whole issue out there is to teach the Word of God.”
In fact, he went on to say, “I am so weary of all these missionary strategists who come out there all the time and tell us they’ve got a new idea and a new program and a new strategy, and everybody’s energy gets all off in all of this new strategy. The only thing that we have found successful in our missions through all these years is that you go out there, you confront the people with love, you help them with their life, and then you give them the Word of the living God.” In fact, he said to me, “If a guy can’t teach the Word of God, keep him home; we can’t use him.” That’s what the church is all about.
I was on the airplane and flying from Los Angeles to New York, and it’s about a five-hour flight, and I kind of figured the Lord had set me next to someone that I could have a profitable conversation with. So I sat down, and a man sat next to me, and he took out his book to read. I took out my Bible, and I was working on some of the commentaries I’m writing. And he took out his book, and it was the writings of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda something or other, and this big picture of the Swami on the back of his book. And so I said, “Here it is, the conflict of truth and error right here in row 16 A and B.
So he was a very nice guy. And so he was reading his Swami, and I was reading the Bible; and I just waited for the Lord to give the opportunity. And I introduced myself to him, and he to me, and we had a little bit of a conversation. And then I said, “I notice you’re reading the Swami. Are you a Hindu?” And he said, “Yes, I am a Hindu.”
I said, “Well, that’s very interesting. What is he teaching? What do you believe?” And I can’t remember the exact words, but the statement was something like this: “Truth is only truth until you discover it.”
See now, I mean, maybe I’m not too bright; that just doesn’t compute. And it was sort of like the truth is only the truth until you’ve got it, and then you’ve lost it. I mean, that’ll change your life, folks, that kind of stuff. That will really change your life.
I said, “Well I don’t know about all of that. But I know the truth.” He said, “You do?” I said, “Yes, I know the truth.” “How do you know the truth?” he said. I said, “Because it’s in the Bible. All of this is the truth right here.” He said, “Well.” And he kind of chuckled in a nice way, you know. Poor soul, looking at me like, “What?”
But anyway, I said, “I know the truth.” He said, “You mean you believe that book is the truth?” I said, “That’s right. It’s all the truth.” He said, “Well, how do you know it’s the truth?” And there it came, right out of the back of my mind and the whole thing on why we know the Bible is the Word of God.
And about twenty minutes later, you know, he was sort of gasping, and it was great. But I just showed him why we know the Bible is true. And we had a wonderful conversation, at the end of which he said something like this: “Am I sentenced all my life to the frustrating seeking for truth that I will never find? I am weary of trying to find some truth that satisfies my heart.” That’s the bottom line.
Well, I went on to explain how he could know the truth, and he is now receiving materials through the mail, sending him some things that might help. But, you see, he was raised in a whole concept of life that says there’s no real truth, everything is some foggy thing; and the frustration of that was very evident.
And so, we are as a church very simply placed in the world to hold up the truth. Isn’t that wonderful? And see, that’s what’s so terrible about churches that abandon the truth. That’s what’s so terrible about churches that deny the inerrancy, the authenticity, the authority of the Word of God. What existence do they have? What justification? We are to hold up the truth. The function, responsibility, mission of every Christian, every congregation is to support, safeguard, uphold the truth of God’s revealed Word; His saving, saving truth.
Now how do we do that? Remember Israel had that task once and they failed. They were given the oracles of God, Romans 3 says, Romans 9. But they failed to hold that treasure, to pass that treasure on. And so we are the new depository where God has put His truth. And we have one job, I don’t care what it is, whether we’re singing songs, we’re upholding the truth; preaching sermons, teaching Bible studies, studying the Bible, reading books, listening to tapes. Even if we have a Sunday School group of kids, we’re upholding the truth. We train teachers, so they can teach the truth. We have flocks so people can discuss the truth. We sit around tables in our fellowship groups to affirm the truth. That’s everything. No matter what the range of ministry is, the heart of it is always the same: we are the pillar and foundation that holds the truth.
How do we do that? Let me give you eight little practical things just to kind of set it in your mind. You know them, but I’ll remind you of them.
We hold up the truth this way. First, by hearing it. First, by hearing it. Jesus said, “If you have ears to hear, you better hear,” Matthew 13:9. In Revelation 2 and 3, the Spirit says, “If you have ears to hear, you better hear.” And you need to hear the Word of God. You can’t uphold the Word if you don’t hear the Word. And that’s why you need to be here on Sunday morning and Sunday night, and involved in Bible study, and reading your Bible faithfully every day, and studying the material that’s provided for you. You need to hear the Word of God. “Happy is the man who hears Me,” God says.
Secondly, memorize it. You hold it up when you memorize it. It’s not enough to just hear it, you’ve got to have it in your memory. Some of our young people back on the streets of New York, when they were hit with questions from people, if they didn’t have that Scripture memorized were unable to use the sword, right? There just wasn’t a weapon there.
There are a lot of people who just – they don’t know the Scripture, they’ve never memorized it. Their Christianity is limited to coming and hearing. But there’s a second step: you need to memorize the Word of God, to commit it to your mind, so that it’s there, so you can give a reason for the hope that is within you to anyone who asks you. You can give an answer to every man for the faith that you possess.
Third thing is to meditate on it. In Joshua 1:8, it tells us that we are to take the book of the law and meditate on it day and night, and observe to do all that is written therein, and then we will have a prosperous way and a successful life. We are to hear the Word, to memorize the Word. Psalm 119:11 says that’s hiding it in our hearts so we don’t sin. Thirdly, meditating on it day and night.
Fourth, study it. Second Timothy 2:15, “Make diligence to study that you might be approved of God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” So we will be able as a church – and I’m asking you as an individual, to recognize that you’re involved in this too; whatever your ministry might be, your purpose is to hold up the truth. That means you have to hear it, and you ought to hear it regularly and consistently so that it’s planted in your heart. Then you are to memorize it, so that it’s at your grasp for application and for communication.
Thirdly, you are to meditate on it, mulling on it in your mind; and that is so difficult. I tell you, we are so bombarded with words in our society, it’s a wonder any of our minds can still meditate on the things of God. There is a tremendous need for insulation in that area. Fourthly, study it, dig into it, analyze it, understand it.
Then, fifthly, holding up the truth means obeying it. What good would it do to hear, memorize, meditate, study, and then not obey it? That would be hypocrisy. Obey it. Luke 11:28, Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who hears My word and keeps it,” – or – “hears My words and keeps them.” We are to be obedient. We are to do what it says.
Sixthly, we are upholding the truth in the church by defending it. Paul says in Philippians 1:17, “I’m set for the defense of the gospel.” The truth is always attacked, people always coming against the truth; and we need to be able to defend that. We need to be set for the defense of the gospel. So we hear it, memorize it, meditate on it, study it, obey it, defend it.
Seventh, live it. Titus 2:10, “We are to adorn the doctrine of God.” How do you adorn the doctrine of God? By living it. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” And then what happens is songs, hymns, spiritual songs, right marriage relationships, right parental/child relationships, right employee/employer relationships. Everything flows out of a word-controlled life. So we are to live it.
And the last way we hold it up is by proclaiming it, by proclaiming it, “going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature, by teaching all men to observe everything Christ has said,” as it says in Matthew chapter 28, verse 20.
So we then hold up the truth. We hear it, memorize it, meditate on it, study it, obey it, defend it, live it, and proclaim it; and that’s the mission of the church at its very heart. “We are as a church called into this world to shine as lights in the darkness,” – Philippians 2:15 says – “holding forth the word of life,” – verse 16 goes on from there – “holding forth the word of life.” That is our task. We are, in this world, the foundation and the pillar that holds up the truth.
What a great mission we have, isn’t it? What a wonderful calling we have. The heart of that truth that we hold up is in verse 16, and we’ll see that in our next study.
Let me say something to you just in conclusion, listen carefully. Everybody in this place this morning has different spiritual gifts. Everyone of us has different functions. We function in the family as a father, a mother, a husband, a wife. We function with our friends as a friend. We function as an employee. We may function as a teacher or a Bible study leader. We may be in a prayer group. We may be in a FLOCK, a fellowship group. You may sing in the choir. You may drive a bus, help the handicapped, work with kids, be in the nursery, coach basketball with little children, teach school here. I don’t know what you do; there are myriad of things that we all do.
But down at the bottom of anything we do within the framework of the church is this necessity, that we realize that we are the living God’s family, the living God’s assembly, and that our primary task on behalf of the living God whom we serve is to hold up His truth, to hold it up faithfully. And that means by diligently pursuing it, by living it and by proclaiming it, to sum up those eight things that I gave you. So whatever it is that your function might be, whatever it is that your ministry might be, the heart of everything underneath that is that you hold up God’s truth. It’s always, always, always under attack, is it not? Always.
I’ve been here at Grace Church over fifteen years. Every time during those years someone has asked me the question: “What is the greatest issue facing the church?” My answer is always the same: “It is the battle for the authority of the Scripture.” It is always that. It comes in different forms. There are all different ways the Bible is attacked, but it’s always under attack. And we exist in this world to hold forth the Word of life as lights shining in a dark world. That’s our calling. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we do thank You for this high and holy calling that You’ve given to us. We thank You that You have told us how it is necessary to conduct oneself in the household of God as a part of the living God’s church. Father, for the privilege of being a part of Your family and Your assembly, we ought to give our lives as faithful upholders of Your truth. Make this church a strong pillar and a strong buttress to hold up Your truth. And may it be the goal of all of our lives, that we might hear and memorize and meditate and study, so that the Word may be deep in us, that we may obey, that we may defend, that we may live, that we may proclaim that Word. To this end we pray that Jesus Christ might be exalted, and that Your Word might be exalted even above Your name, as You have said. Amen.
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