Summary: A sermon for Reformation Sunday. The Living Church of the Living God has a Biblical mandate to uphold and hold forth the Living Word.
(Upholder of the truth)
“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.” NASB
“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.” NIV
After his release from his first imprisonment in Rome Paul traveled and visited the churches in which he had ministered, including Ephesus. He then moved on to Macedonia, leaving Timothy behind in Ephesus to deal with some problems that had arisen in the church there.
So from Macedonia he wrote this letter to give Timothy further instructions as to how to deal with these difficult people who were upsetting the assembly, in some cases denying the deity of Christ and bringing in other false teachings.
Now Ephesus was not an easy place in which to minister. This is where Paul’s teaching nearly resulted in a riot when the makers and merchants of idols to the pagan goddess Artemis, also known as Diana, became afraid that people were going to follow after Paul’s teaching and hurt their pocket books.
In his first letter to the Corinthians (ch 15), Paul referenced his having fought wild beasts at Ephesus. Now there is some difference of opinion as to whether he was actually exposed to the teeth and claws of animals and God rescued him, or whether he is comparing the unsaved and hostile pagans of that city to wild beasts who according to their fallen nature and animal instincts would have torn him apart in this riot. (although at the end of 2 Tim he does reference having been delivered by God from the mouth of the lion, we don’t know where or when that happened)
In either case, Ephesus was not user friendly for ministers of the Word of the Lord, and hence the turmoil in the young church.
So here is this young pastor, Timothy, who is relatively new to pastoral ministry, and his seasoned, experienced mentor Paul has written this letter to give him help and direction.
That is the setting.
Now we come to the words of our text verses today and see that here, about midway through the letter, Paul announces his purpose in writing the things that he has been saying, and also some things that he will go on to say.
“I am writing these things to you…” then he says he wants to come back for a visit but just in case he is delayed, “…so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
There is much that can be taught, of course, from the chapters that have come before, and also from other epistles of Paul where he addresses conduct in the church, spiritual relationships among believers, family relationships, direction for leaders and pastors and so on.
Today I simply want to call to your attention the fact that Paul has tied all of these teachings on conduct in with the reason those in the church should be conducting themselves in a Godly manner.
It is because, says he, the church is the church of the living God. As such she is God’s witness in the world, and also the pillar and foundation of the truth.
Using the imagery of pillars and foundations might have made the Ephesian Christians think of the Temple of Diana in their own city. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was quite a monument to pagan religion and demonic worship practices. In his description of the temple William Barclay wrote:
“One of its features was its pillars. It contained one hundred and twenty-seven pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold” William Barclay, The letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975)