The following message is based on 1 Timothy 3:14-16 and deals with the nature of relationships within the church. It was preached on January 20, 2013.
Over the past 20 years, there seems to have been a change in the cultural climate. Life appears to be faster than ever. Information is limited to sound bytes and headlines. We live moment to moment. Jeff Reed describes our society as one that builds into us a mindset about our personal development.
- We want quick fixes—not long-term solutions
- We want how to’s—not the ability to think clearly.
- We want short training—not lifelong learning.
- We want tantalizing subjects—not serious ordered learning.
- We want fill-in-the-blank exercises—not reflective writing.
- We want one-time applications—not serious projects.
Does that resonate with you? Do you feel that there is a constant push for the immediate, the easy, the short, the entertaining, the shallow? While this takes place around us, the church is supposed to be the alternative. The Christian faith is not like that. Churches try to present the faith as such, but Jesus did not die for our convenience. He said in Matthew 16:24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
We continue our study on church health and relationships. Today, I’ve entitled our message, “The Church as a Family of Families,” based on the small group literature from the Biblical Institute of Leadership Development. Our Scripture is found in 1 Timothy 3. This morning, let us ask, “What is the church?” and “What behavior must be present in those of us who belong to the church?”
Let us consider the two C’s of a health community of faith, that is: Conduct and Confession. First, let us look at…
THE CONDUCT THAT BEFITS CHRISTIANS
1 Timothy 3:14 says: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household….” Paul uses two words that ought to gain our attention. The first is “conduct.” The Greek implies a way of life. Membership in a local church has certain implications. It means that members of a congregation treat one another, as they would members of their own homes. Notice Paul’s words in 1Timothy 5:1-2: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” The church is not a social gathering for networking or relationships; nor is it a pool of competition to breed jealousy and envy. Rather, the church is a family where we respect each other, encourage each other and build one another up. We see each other as created in the image of God. Each of us is to live complimentary of one another, for the purpose of mutual blessing.
Secondly, we are to care for one another’s needs. Take for instance, widows in Paul’s day who did not have any family to see after them. They certainly did not have the luxury of government programs for the aged or under privileged. The church is to care for such, as 1 Timothy 5:5 says: “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” And verse 16: “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.” The church is meant to be a family that looks out for those members uniquely in need.
Thirdly, the church is to be led by godly men who take seriously their callings, skillful at leading their families and having a good reputation. 1 Timothy 3:1: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”
Why are these things necessary? Because this is what God expects of us. This is what people need. This is what is attractive to those outside of the faith. This is what the church is supposed to be. Next, let us look at…
THE CONFESSION THAT BEFITS THE CHURCH.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:14: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, 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.” Last week I mentioned that illustration about leaves. A brown leaf in winter is a sign that it has fulfilled its mission. It was here only for a little while to provide pure oxygen and a healthier atmosphere in an otherwise polluted world. What difference are you making in this place?
Another analogy is that of the pillar. If you know something about architecture, pillars are used not only for support, but also to project beauty. Hence, there’s the Corinthian column, the Ionian column, etc. Churches are collective bodies of Christians, which function as pillars and foundations of the church. Woe to us if we don’t comment on the spiritual and moral decline of our nation and world. Our job is to point others authentically to Christ! We are living sign posts! We are also known by the love and support we give one another John Stott writes: ‘One of the surest roads to the reform and renewal of the church is to recover its essential identity as “God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”’ To be a church member means something!
A common misconception is that you can have a relationship with God, but be completely separated from His people. Most recently, I heard actor Dustin Hoffman’s feelings on the subject in response to his dad’s atheism. He said recently in an interview regarding his lack of religious upbringing: “I remember lying on the grass at night on my back …. And I would talk to God and I would ask him questions and I would hear his answers. So I kind of made up my own God. I don’t know if it’s correct to have it or not, but organized religion has always (been something that)- I’ve kept a kind of distance from. And I don’t think it has anything to do with your own personal feelings. And in order to please God or to do things moral, to have a morality in order to please God or get into heaven, I have always felt is kind of hypocritical.
I think your morality is your morality and you have it just because that’s the way you want to live your life. Not to get a reward. The reward is in the living itself. Are we allowed to make up our own God? Is it right to forsake the assembly of His people? Is Christianity just another self help approach to life? What is the problem with this angle? God does have a specific family; a people for His own possession. And they are in an organized body called the Church! 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
That includes a confession that Jesus has changed our lives. Notice the confession that Paul states concerning the life of Christ in verse 16: “Beyond all question, 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.” The New American standard uses the words that are actually in the text: “By common confession….” In other words, these are the things commonly held among believers. This is the life of Christ in one sentence.
Not long after Paul died, the church began dealing with cults that denied the existence of the Son of God in bodily form. Therefore, the churches had to affirm that Jesus came in the flesh and that He was the Son of the living God, as Peter confessed at Caesarea Philippi, what we heard read earlier. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Today, we have considered the two C’s of church health: THE CONDUCT and THE CONFESSION THAT BEFITS THE CHURCH. According to British demographer David Barrett, the Church is losing 7,600 attendees a day in Europe and North America, That means that every week, more than 53,000 people leave church and never come back. To put that in perspective, consider that the United States lost about 57,500 people in the Vietnam War. In a different sense—though strangely appropriate—the church “loses” almost that many every week. Could it be that we’ve lost our footing? Remember 1 Timothy 3:14: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, 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. 16 Beyond all question, 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.”
 Jeff Reed, Belonging to a Family of Families, 7.
 John Stott, 1 Timothy and Titus: Fighting the Good Fight, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1998), 28.
 William Hendricks, Exit Interviews, Revealing Stories of Why People are Leaving the Church, p. 252 found in Fresh Illustrations.