The House of God
Ray Dawes, Hillingdon
'These things write I unto thee, . . . that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.' 1 Tim. 3. 14-15, R.v.
The inspired writers of the New Testament Scriptures often state their reasons for writing. Luke wrote to give assurance of the certainty of the Gospel facts, Luke 1. 3-4; John, to show the deity of Christ and to produce faith in Him, John 20. 31: also that believers might rejoice in the full knowledge of eternal life, 1 John 1. 4; 5. 13. We give earnest heed to these truths, and rightly so, but do we give such serious attention to matters pertaining to church order and behaviour? For in these things too, positive teaching is given. Hence there is no excuse for ignorance, or cause for controversy. Paul expressly declares his reason for writing this epistle, that Timothy might know how it is necessary for men (that is, all of us) to behave in the house of God. God desires that we should be firmly established in church teaching, as in all truth. To treat the subject as a matter of opinion, or as relatively unimportant, is to deny the plain force of these verses, thereby to be left at the mercy of religious prejudices, tradition and human expedients. Let us then turn sincerely to the all-sufficient Word of God, not allowing ourselves to be dismayed nor deceived by the multitude of discordant voices in Christendom, but desiring from the heart only sound, Scriptural doctrine. We do well to echo the Psalmist's prayer 'Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed', Ps. 119. 80.
The local assembly is the dwelling place of God, His temple, 1 Cor. 3. 16 - His house. The King eternal, immortal (incorruptible), invisible, the only wise God, 1 Tim. 1. 17, is the divine owner and occupant; The King of Kings and Lord of Lords who dwells in light unapproachable, 1 Tim. 6. 16, links His name and honour with an assembly. It is the house of the living God; a sphere of life, not of dead formality, mere profession or nominal allegiance. In our gatherings together, are we aware of God's august living presence? Or, must we, like Jacob, awake to the awesome fact 'the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not... this is none other but the house of God', Gen. 28. 16-17.
Consider the example of others. Moses, the servant of the Lord, was faithful in all his house, Heb. 3. 5. God charged Moses to make the tabernacle 'according to all that I shew thee . . .', Exod. 25. 8, 9. In the matter of His then dwelling-place, no detail was left to the imagination or reason of man. Moses faithfully obeyed God's instructions, doing all that the Lord commanded him, Exod. 40. 16. God is surely no less particular in His house today, requiring all to be done after His pattern shown to us in the New Testament Scriptures. David, a man alter God's own heart, said 'Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth', Ps. 26. 8, so it was his one desire always to be there, Ps. 27. 4, and his constant joy to go - 'I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord', Ps. 122. 1. If our hearts valued the presence of God similarly, no petty reasons, no unessential personal or business matters, would keep us away from assembly meetings. Of the Lord Jesus, our supreme example, it was written, 'the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up', John 2. 17. He could not suffer evil to be associated with the presence of God. But do we care when in the house of God, Scriptural principles are questioned, worldliness accepted or the flesh tolerated? May zeal stir our spirits as we recall that 'holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever', Ps. 93. 5.
Only as faithfulness to the Word of God, love for His presence and zeal for His glory characterize us, will the assembly fulfil its purpose as 'the pillar and ground of the truth'. God's mind and ways must be seen there. The Lord Jesus was truth itself whilst on earth, John 14. 6. He is now in heaven, and the house of God, the church, is to be the pillar of truth in manifesting it before the world, and the ground of truth in maintaining it in purity. Conformity to the Word of God, which is truth, John 17. 17, is therefore necessary.
If our soul is not deeply affected in viewing the assembly as the house of God, we shall soon fall victims to heartless legality or self-willed liberty. But if we humbly submit ourselves, surely the glory of the Lord will fill the house of the Lord, 1 Kings 8. 10; the mystery of godliness will be known, 1 Tim. 3.16, and the Gospel of the glory of God will be sounded out, 1 Tim. 1, 11, R.v. Willing obedience to, and glad occupation with, the Lord Himself, by each one, will send forth from the hearts of the gathered company such a fragrance to God, that the whole house will be filled with the odour of the ointment, John 12. 3. Let us all then become acquainted with New Testament church principles and seek to behave ourselves in a perfect way that these precious results may become evident in the local assemblies that we represent.