The Church Of God - House of God
William Trew, Cardiff
IT is to be recognized that “The House of God” is a term used in other passages of the New Testament of that which could not be contained within the limits of any locality (Heb. 3. 1-6; 10. 21;1Peter 4. 17). Even so, the present writer has long been convinced that the term as used by the apostle in 1 Tim. 3 14-15 is intended to designate the local assembly and to describe its character. The purpose served by the epistle is explained to us in these words—“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how one ought to behave in house of God, which is church of living God, pillar and firm foundation of the truth” (Newberry). At the time of receiving the epistle, Timothy was bearing the responsibility of care and leadership of the assembly of the saints in Ephesus, where difficulties had arisen, caused by evil teaching and unchristian practices (ch. 1. 3, 4). The epistle, therefore, was written to instruct Timothy concerning Divine rule and order, according to which behaviour was to be directed and governed in that which bore the character of “House of God.” It is surely impossible to read the epistle with any degree of thought and care, yet fail to recognize that in every part of it the apostle’s mind is wholly occupied with the ordering of the local assembly according to the will of God, Whose house it is.
The apostle, although hoping soon to come to Ephesus in person, yet fears that he may be delayed; so, realizing the importance of clear instructions reaching Timothy at once, he sends to him this epistle. The opening verses are introductory, reminding Timothy of the conditions in Ephesus that made his continued, presence there necessary (ch. 1 1-4; 18. 20). In a large parenthetical passage (ch. 1. 5-17) shines the radiancy, of “The Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” Its doctrine is that of Grace, not of Law. It is the revelation of God to man as “God our Saviour” Its message tells of abundant mercy and amazing longsuffering. Its blessing is for sinners, to save whom “Christ Jesus came into the world.”
In chapter 2 the assembly is shown to be the house of prayer. The saints, themselves debtors to the grace of “God our Saviour Who will have all to be saved,” have been brought into fellowship with the one Mediator, “Who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Constrained by His love, they use their privilege of access to the sanctuary, on behalf of all, in a spirit as little nationalistic as is the message of grace and blessing for all, which is now the theme of their testimony, and the sweet incense of their priestly ministry ascends before God “good and acceptable.” It is collective prayer—the prayers of the assembly—expressed audibly by the lips of the males (v. 8) and effectual, not only because the brethren “lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” but also because the sisters wait before God in their God-appointed place of subjection and silence, dressed in the beautiful garments of good works, so becoming to the women of the assembly of God. Thus the house of God becomes a concentration of priestly character and power.
In chapter 3 we are given a threefold description of the local assembly. In the first place it is House of God. The Presence of God is realized there. The rule of God is acknowledged there. The Word of God maintains Divine order there. In the second place it is Church of Living God. In contrast with dead idols (in Ephesus was the temple of the goddess Diana), God, in Whom is the power of life, dwells in the midst of His people, manifesting His Presence according to the energy and fruitfulness of that life. In the third place, it is Pillar and Firm Foundation of the Truth. The assembly is not the truth; Christ Himself is the truth. But He has been “received up in glory;” and is now “hid in God.” It is the dignity and privilege of the assembly, by faithfulness in holding it fast and by obedience thereto, to maintain the truth in powerful witness in the world. “That which does not maintain and present the truth is not the assembly as God understands it.” (J.N.D Synopsis.) Hence the apostle now lays emphasis upon the development in the saints of character consistent with the truth to which the assembly bears witness. The character of the overseers—the leaders of the saints in their assembly life—is the theme of verses 1-7. The character of those who engage in service in relation to the assembly, is the subject of verses 8-14. The behaviour of the women becomes also the subject of warning and exhortation. In the absence from the earth of the Son of God, the power of the witness for God depends now upon the development of godliness in the character of the saints. Therefore it is of first importance that, we know how to behave ourselves.
The Devil—the false accuser—attacks the truth by attacking the character of the saints whose responsibility it is to maintain and present it, exercising his wiles to draw them aside from the practical experience of it. Conscious of the fact that the effectiveness of the witness depends upon our being faithful to the purpose for which the assembly has been brought into being, may we be helped of God in this our day, to serve as “House of God, church of living God, pillar and firm foundation of the truth.”