Service in the House of God
J. H. Hughes, Nutley
To TIMOTHY, PAUL WROTE 'from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus', 2 Timothy 3. 15, R.V. Timothy had been nurtured in the Old Testament Scriptures, and it is possible that Paul's reference to the house of God, 1 Timothy 3. 15, would lead him to see in this epistle some allusions to the books of the Kings. Certainly we have two things which are common to 1 Kings and 1 Timothy, namely the house of God, and the man of God.
In other epistles the Church is referred to as a temple, a body, a family, a bride, etc., but here in 1 Timothy it is the house of God, where all believers should be doing something for the Lord, and the house of God in Old Testament days provides the pattern of many things.
From 1 Timothy 3. 15 we note at once that the Church is 'the pillar and ground (margin - stay) of the truth', reminding us of the two great pillars which stood at the forefront of Solomon's house, 1 Kings 7. 21; Jachin meaning 'He shall establish', and Boaz 'In it is strength'. They were the support and stay in symbol of all that the house stood for. The Church occupies that place in relation to the truth. The Church is not the truth, but it does guard and support it. This important function is something altogether different from the pretensions of the Church of Rome which places the pronouncements of 'The Church' on a higher level than the New Testament, and professes to be able to add to it, and to do almost anything by the decree of a council or the pronouncement of an 'infallible' Pope. Also, in lesser degree, bodies of Christians everywhere are known by their systems of belief and practice rather than for giving the Word of God to the people. Nor do we altogether escape this in our simple assemblies, for it is easy to accept as truth an interpretation of Scripture rather than to be like the Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily whether these things were so, Acts 17. 11, R.V.
The house of God is being built for permanence. The house which Solomon built was intended to endure as long as the people obeyed the voice of God. When the ark was brought in, the carrying staves were taken from it, and the memorials of the wilderness failure - the golden pot of manna and the rod that budded were taken out. The tables of the covenant alone remained, 1 Kings 8. 9. The ark had at last found a permanent resting-place. Here is a picture of the true house of God, the Church. It will never be displaced, for 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it', Matthew 16. 18.
The house of God is, in a sense, universal, for its blessings overflow to all. In 1 Kings 8. 43 we note the scope of Solomon's dedicatory prayer, 'that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name'. The great cherubim within did not gaze downwards towards the mercy seat as in the tabernacle, but towards the house, 2 Chron. 3. 13 (M.). Paul boldly declares that Christ is 'the King of kings and Lord of lords', 1 Timothy 6. 15, and though we now share His rejection and 'go forth unto him without the camp', we are nevertheless, the channel of blessing to all men, with the God-given means 'to do good unto all', wherever men will receive it. Separation must never mean isolation.
Now we turn to the individual servant of the Lord, the 'man of God', as seen in 1 Kings and 1 Timothy. The grand appellation 'man of God' is given to Timothy by Paul, and of such a man unswerving obedience is required. 'Take heed to thyself, 'exercise thyself unto godliness', 'keep thyself pure'. 'Study to show thyself approved unto God'. So run the apostolic injunctions. A sad but illuminating lesson comes from the story of the disobedient prophet, 1 Kings 13, who nine times over is called 'the man of God'. He discharged his commission faithfully and courageously, but afterwards failed to obey God's express command, with the result that he lay dead outside the city, with the lion that slew him and the ass that carried him, standing by. God did not allow the lion to destroy his body, or slay the ass, reminding us that Satan's power is limited in relation to the servants of the Lord. Though some be rejected because of unfaithfulness, the Lord has other servants to do His bidding, and the means ready to enable them to do it. Is it not true that in countless instances a promising life has been wasted through yielding to some fleshly indulgence, often in very simple things? God carries on His work, but, for the servant concerned, the crown has been irretrievably lost.
The true 'man of God' will never be ambitious for place or power, but will be content with the work God gives him to do, and with the place He appoints. How many of us fail in Christian service because we want someone else's work or place! 'Seekest thou great things for thyself; seek them not'.