“These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”1 Timothy 3:14-15
What would our lives look like without church? Not only, but especially on Sunday, it would probably mean a big change. The church is a great blessing for every Christian, for every child of God in this world!
Paul wrote to Timothy what was important to him: “…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God….”
The church is the house of God; this is where God dwells. We know that at the time of the old covenant the temple was considered the house of God. When the temple in Jerusalem was completed, the building was sanctified with a special dedication day. On that day, an exceedingly large amount of sacrificial animals were brought and countless prayers were sent up to God. As Solomon prayed, the glory of God appeared, testifying that God would dwell in that special place from now on.
There were many promises associated with the temple in Jerusalem, as God’s dwelling place among His people. But then there was a point in time when God ended the special relationship with a geographical place.
The dwelling place of God in New Testament times is His church, as our textual word also testifies. He has not tied Himself to any particular place. Nor does His church itself consist of a building, a temple, or a church house. His church is formed by born-again people. They have experienced Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Redeemer. As His children, they know and serve Him. God dwells in this company of His children who form His church here on earth.
Jesus Christ says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Note that this is not just a nice statement or an assumption, it is actual reality! He dwells in the community of God’s children who gather in one place in His name.
When we come together, it is true that we cannot see the Lord Jesus with our earthly eyes. But because we come together in His name, He dwells in our midst and blesses us.
The church is a pillar
It is compared to a pillar, a supporting column that catches and supports the static load. Some translations say, “an unshakable pillar.”
The image of a pillar directs our thoughts to an experience of the people of Israel during their exodus from Egypt.
Through the desert at that time, there were no roads or paths to follow. There were also no maps, signs, or directions. A great many Israelites certainly walked for the first time through this barren landscape, full of dangerous animals and all kinds of other dangers. In Exodus 13:21 we read that God showed them the way to go by day with a pillar of cloud and by night with a pillar of fire.
This image shows us an important task of the church today. It is to give people orientation and guidance in difficult and perilous times. Of course, even today not everyone is willing to follow this pillar. Often the voice of the church is even deliberately ignored. And yet the church is there – the pillar and foundation of biblical truth. Children of God, who are a part of this church in their place, are also a part of this “pillar.”
The congregation is a foundation of truth
In the church, the biblical and clear truth is proclaimed as the foundation of doctrine. It is based on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, on Jesus Christ, who was set as the cornerstone!
The church proves to be the “foundation of truth,” because here the children of God are built up. Its greatest treasure is its relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone that the builders rejected, but who is chosen and precious in the sight of God!
And He is the one who builds His church. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…”.
Why did God set this up this way? “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14 ESV). He had already dealt with a similar thought in chapter 2:19-22.
God Himself gave His Word to His children in order to edify them through it, to develop them. The Word of God is supervised and made alive by the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is able to penetrate the innermost part of the human heart and touch us.
What a blessing God gives us as a local church, that in every meeting He prepares for us a table of delicious food at which we may feast and refresh ourselves!
The effect of the church as the foundation of truth is also shown in the fact that in the meetings the children of God are admonished by the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to the brethren in Ephesus (4:1-3 ESV): “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
God’s Word urgently warns us to be watchful, sober, and ready: ” Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming… Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42,44). Dear children of God, let us be alert and sober so that we are ready to meet our God!
Then the blessing of the church as the foundation of truth is also shown in the fact that the children of God are encouraged here.
For every child of God living in this world, there are many things that want to take away our courage. It may be unfavorable situations, influences of this world, cunning offers of the enemy, or many false accusations on the part of the world and many other things.
But the church, the community of God’s children, is the place where children of God are encouraged and strengthened in service to the Lord. Through the Word of God in Hebrews 12:1-3, we are encouraged to look up to the Lord Jesus Christ, so as not to grow faint in our courage and leave the faith. Looking to Christ, to His sufferings, His death, and especially also to His resurrection encourages us. Likewise also the fact that He is now at the right hand of the Father, representing us as our advocate. He Himself encourages us to serve Him with full power, full commitment, and with all our heart!