Summary: Exposition of 1 Timothy on the relationship of the nature of the church and our Christian conduct.
How to Act in Church
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Don¡¦t act that way in church! Ever said that? Been told that? I¡¦ll bet you have. Especially some of our kids. Take your hat off. Stop running. Don¡¦t talk like that. You¡¦re in church! What kind of conduct is appropriate in church? What kind isn¡¦t? More importantly, why should our conduct at church be any different than anywhere else?
Obviously, I think we ought to act in an appropriate way in the church building. The same goes for any public building. Especially in gatherings of worship and learning, our actions ought to reflect our attitudes toward God. We behave in an appropriately serious manner because we believe that what we are doing is serious business. But sometimes our preoccupation with how we act in the church building causes us to overlook the bigger issue of how we act as the church where ever we are. That¡¦s the issue of 1 Timothy¡Xthe next book in our journey through the New Testament.
Before I read from 1 Timothy, let me set the stage a bit. 1 Timothy is the first of three books we call the ¡§pastoral epistles.¡¨ 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus were each written to men who had been delegated the task of helping a struggling church weather some choppy waters. Paul had just been released from prison. He was in a hurry to get to as many of his churches as possible. He visits Ephesus, a very large, influential and immoral city. Unable to stay as long as he wished, he asks one of his young sidekicks to stay behind to help the church. A few months later, Paul sends this letter back to young Timothy with instructions and encouragement. Timothy¡¦s task¡Xhelp the church survive and thrive in that difficult situation. 1 Timothy was the instruction manual. The short book contains six chapters, 113 verses and 2,243 words (in the KJV).
Our text is the key passage in the book¡X1 Timothy 3:14-16. Three terms surface in these verses. When we understand these three words, we will understand the message of 1 Timothy. Let¡¦s examine church, and godliness and conduct. These three words in these three verses explain who we are, what we believe, and how we behave. The ideas are interrelated.
First, who we are. Note the four terms our text uses for the church: God¡¦s household, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. The word church is a very much abused and misused term in our language. When we think of ¡§church,¡¨ we think of either a building or an institution. The confusion is natural. That¡¦s natural, but it can be dangerously misleading.
The problem of thinking of church as a place or an organization is that we easily slide into a we/they or here/there way of thinking. ¡§The church is those people¡Xthe key leaders.¡¨ If I am not part of those people, then I don¡¦t have to live by the same standards. Or ¡§At 205 W. Park I have to behave a certain way, at the coffee shop or at the break room at work, I can act differently. I am not in church.¡¨ A wrong view of the church and our individual relationships to it affects our conduct. That¡¦s the point of our text.
Note the first of the four terms. The church is ¡§God¡¦s household.¡¨ That¡¦s a term of intimacy. It means family. The church is not an impersonal organization or a business enterprise, though we do have structure and we do conduct business. We are first of all a family. It is not an accident that in scripture believers refer to one another as brothers and sisters. The attitude of family affects how we view one another, how we treat one another, and how dependent we are on one another. You are just as much a part of the family whether you are together or scattered.
Secondly, God¡¦s family is the church of the living God. This is a term of majesty. The church is not just any family. It is God¡¦s. This is not just any ¡§god.¡¨ We are talking about the Living God. He is not the God of the past. We do not gather to worship tradition or legends that happened ¡§once upon a time.¡¨ We are not dealing with a God who only knows and sees what takes place in this room. It is not like this is God¡¦s place and every place else is ours. He is the Living God! Hebrews says, ¡§It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God¡¨ (10:31). Does knowing that affect how you conduct yourself?
The next two terms are bit more difficult to get our arms around. The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church¡¦s task is to represent and spread the truth in this world. The truth we stand for is not human philosophy, personal opinion, or the traditions passed down from our forefathers. It is the revelation of the living God himself. We live in a cynical world that doubts that truth exists or if it does if anyone can know it. Jesus said, ¡§I am the truth.¡¨ He insisted that God¡¦s revealed Word is truth!