What the Church Should Be
1 Timothy 3:15
But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God…

I. THE GLORIOUS NAME OF THE CHURCH — "The Church of the living God."

1. It is called the Church. What is a church? It is an assembly; and a Christian Church is an assembly of faithful men; of men who know the truth, believe it, avow it, and adhere to it. The Greek word signifies an assembly summoned out of the whole population to exercise the right of citizenship. An ecclesia, or Church, is not a mob, nor a disorderly gathering rushing together without end or purpose, but a regular assembly of persons called out by grace, and gathered together by the Holy Spirit. Those persons make up the assembly of the living God.

2. But the title grows upon us when we read it as "the Church of God." There is a synagogue of Satan, and there is a Church of God. There are churches so-called which are not of God, though they take upon themselves His name; but what an honour it is to be one of the assembly of God, to be one of those whom God has chosen, whom God has called, whom God has quickened, whom God has sanctified, whom God loves and calls His own I How honoured is that assembly in which He resides I The title is enhanced in its excellency by the word which it is applied to God.

3. It is "the Church of the living God," not thy congregation, O Diana, though they said of thee that thou didst fall from heaven, for thou art a lifeless image! What was Diana of the Ephesians? What life or power was in that senseless block? Timothy knew that the assembly which gathered in the name of Diana was not called out by a living god. It is a glorious fact that our God, the God of the Church, liveth and reigneth, and that He shows His life all around us. We see Him sustaining nature, ruling providence, and reigning in the midst of His Church; and while we see Him we adore Him. If you have never been quickened by the Spirit of God, if you are dead in trespasses and sins, what have you to do with the Church of the living God? Oh ye dead and corrupt, how can ye have communion with the living in Zion.

II. HER DESIGN IN REFERENCE TO GOD. The apostle speaks of the Church of the living God as the house of God.

1. I suppose we are to understand by the Church being God's house, that it is the place of His worship. As of old the Temple was the holy place to which the children of Israel went up in pilgrimage, the point towards which they opened their windows when they prayed, and the place of the one altar and the one sacrifice; so now the Church of God is the sole place of God's true worship. He is spiritually worshipped nowhere else. Do not dream, ye ungodly, that ye can worship the living God. The first essential to your acceptance is that ye accept His salvation.

2. But I like better still to get away from the somewhat ceremonious idea of a temple to the more familiar thought of a house or home. The Lord makes the Church the place of His indwelling. The thought itself is charming. It is that old prophecy fulfilled, "I will dwell in them and walk in them." God calls His Church a house in the sense of His residing there. Of the Church we read, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."

3. In his own house a man not only dwells, for he might do that in any inn; but there he feels himself to be at home, and therefore it is the place of his manifestation. You do not see the man on the bench, for there you see the judge; nor on business, for there you see the trader; but at home, with the children, as one of them, you see the man, the father, the husband; you see his heart and soul. And God is not seen in all the universe with anything like the degree of clearness that He is beheld in the midst of His people. The Lord God is more gloriously manifested in His people than in all the works of creation.

4. A man's house is also the place of his paternal rule, In the Church we are under the present rule of our heavenly Father. In the Church of God you will sometimes see this very remarkably.

5. Once again, it is for his own house that a man works and spends his strength; it is the object of his choicest purposes. If a man shall compass sea and land to gain gold, it is for his house. If he rise up early and sit up late and eat the bread of carefulness, it is still for his house. And so the great Householder ruleth all things for His chosen family, and the end and the design of all providence, if we were to trace it to its ultimate object, is the good of them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose. We will not leave this point without observing how holy, then, should all members of Christian Churches be! "Holiness becometh thine house." How obedient also should we be; for if we are a part of the house of God, let it be our joy to submit ourselves to the Master. How struck with awe ought every church member to be to think that he is built into God's house. "How dreadful is this place! It is none other than the house of God." At the same time, how full of love ought we to be, for God is love! A house is no home if love be absent, and a Church is unchurchly if there be division among the brethren.

III. THE DESIGN OF THE CHURCH IN REFERENCE TO THE TRUTH. Paul compares it to a pillar and its pedestal or basement; for that, I think, would be a fair translation. The temple of Diana, at Ephesus, was adorned with more than a hundred columns of stupendous size. They were mostly of Parian marble, and were either furnished by the various cities of Asia as offerings to the goddess, or were contributed by wealthy men and princes. These pillars are said to have been immense monoliths: single stones of sixty feet in height, and they were set upon a basement which was elevated ten steps above the surrounding area. Diana had her pillar and her basement, but she had no pillar or basement of truth, hers was all imposture throughout. Now, Paul calls the Church of God the basement and pillar of the truth. What does he mean? Notice, that she is not the creator of the truth, nor the inventor and fashioner of doctrine. Let it be remembered also, that the figure must not be pushed beyond what it was meant to teach. In a certain sense the Church cannot be the pillar and ground of the truth. Truth is true of itself, and owes its origin to God Himself and the nature of things. The Church is not here described as the deepest foundation of the truth, for the basement of the pillar of truth rests on a rock, and the Church rests on God, the Rock of ages. But truth in itself is one thing, as truth as existing in the world is another thing. I daresay the proverb is true, but truth never prevails till some living mind believes it, vindicates it, and proclaims it abroad. The person who thus takes up a grand truth, declares it, fights for it, and makes it known, may be very properly called the pillar and the basis of the cause; for the spread of the principle depends upon him. We may say of the Reformation, Luther was its pillar and basement; or of Methodism the same might be said of Wesley. Note how in another place Paul says that James and Cephas and John seemed to be pillars; that is to say, they were upholders of the good cause. Notice that the text speaks of "the Church of God," meaning all the people of God, and not the clergy alone. What does the expression mean — the pillar and basement?

1. I think it means, that in the Church the truth should abide. In the Church of the living God it always does abide, even as a pillar stirs not from its place. In the confession of the Church made by each one of her members, in the teaching of her ministers, and in the witness of the whole body, truth will be found at all times. The Church of God is not the quicksand of the truth, but the pillar and pedestal of it: she is not the floating island of the truth, but the eternal column of it.

2. It means that in the true Church the truth is uplifted as upon a pillar. Truth not only rests there as a pedestal, but it stands upright as a pillar. It is the duty and the privilege of the Church of God to exalt the truth into the open view of all mankind. Possibly you may have seen the column of Trajan, or the column in the Place Vendome in Paris; these may serve as illustrations. Around these shafts you see the victories of the conqueror pictured in relief, and lifted into the air, that all may see them. Now, the Church of God is a pillar which lifts up and publishes, far and wide, the achievements of our conquering Lord.

3. Again, a Church is intended by God to set forth the truth with beauty; for in a temple pillars and columns are meant for ornaments as well as for service. God's service should be formed in the beauty of holiness.

4. Once more, it is the Church's business to maintain the truth with all her might. She is set as a brazen wall and an iron pillar against all error.The truths which may be derived from the text are of one order.

1. The whole Church is to maintain the truth.

2. Next, remember that a Church is unchurched which is not faithful to the truth.

3. Next, recollect that any Church fails in her design as being the pillar and pedestal of the truth in proportion as she departs from the truth.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

WEB: but if I wait long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

What Church Means
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