“The Eighth Benefit of Being A Church Member: In The Pillar and Ground of Truth”
First Timothy 3.14-16
1. For those of you who are visiting with us this morning, allow me to recap the high points of the sermons I have preached over the last ten weeks. We are in a series of sermons dealing with the benefits of being a church member.
2. While I despise the smorgasbord approach to Christianity that is characterized by professing Christians who hop from church to church, looking for what they think they might like in a pastor or in a church facility, let us also recognize that God wants His people to be thankful and appreciative.
3. We live in the last days, which the Bible shows to be days of such self-indulgence, days of such faithlessness, days of such spiritual lethargy, that it should not surprise us that most professing Christians give little thought to how desperately they need a pastor and a good church home.
4. This series of messages shows what benefits God’s Word declares a church member to receive when he is genuinely converted, scripturally baptized, and faithfully involved in his church’s ministry of reaching the lost and serving the one true and living God. Little wonder that those who usually complain of receiving little from their church are precisely those who invest little into their church.
5. The series began by showing that church members are in the body of Christ, that special type of congregation the Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to represent Him on earth until He takes Christians up at the time of the Rapture.
6. We then saw that the church congregation is the place designated as the unique place of service, and as the sole place where one’s personal ministry will result in those rewards that will be handed out at the judgment seat of Christ are to be earned.
7. We moved from that to the benefit of exhortation. It is among church members that Christians are truly empowered and prompted to exhort one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching. Everyone can use some exhorting from time to time. Amen? Nevertheless, some people settle for less.
8. Then there is the benefit of preparation. Like babies who are born to their mothers in need of raising, training and teaching, so newborn babes in Christ are in need of spiritual preparation. Without preparation how is a Christian to know to serve God, to know how to serve God, and to know where to serve God? These are important issues in the life of the child of God who wants to count for something in this life and in eternity.
9. On the day of my mother’s funeral I preached about the benefit of the congregation being the place of communion. I am so thankful God providentially timed that topic for me to preach on, because there are times when a person’s loneliness can overwhelm him, even with a spouse and children in the house.
10. Sad to say, many people do not realize that God’s plan for dealing with loneliness in a person’s life involves deep immersion into the life of a church congregation. So, I want to thank you folks for the communion God used you to provide for me on a human level during that difficult time.
11. Hey, fellas. A husband is 14 carat nitwit who thinks he is the solution to his wife’s loneliness issues apart from her spiritual interaction with other believers in a church. And you parents who get stressed out because your kids are hanging around the wrong crowd need to pay attention to the fact that your kids are lonely and seeking communion on some level. But unless they get converted and deeply involved in a good church their search for friends who will end their loneliness will prove fruitless in an ever-continuing downward spiral.
12. On PayCheck Sunday I preached about the church as the place of giving, that institution through which God’s people in this age are to give tithes and offerings to Him. Is it not interesting that some fellows think themselves lacking in integrity for not paying their debts to men and businesses, all the while robbing God?
13. Last week I preached on the church being the place for seeking recourse. Apart from courts of law, which provide no spiritual resolution to any issue between people, and which do not facilitate spiritual reconciliation for two genuinely converted people, there is no recourse. Only in the local church, and only as authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ, do we Christians have recourse when we are sinned against by a brother or sister in Christ.
14. So, when you look at the benefits of being the member of a church that we have looked at thus far, in the main, you have seen benefits that can be directly or indirectly connected to your own feelings of well-being. After all, who doesn’t want to be encouraged and enjoy the companionship of other like-minded Christians? And who is not interested in investing his life today in efforts and affairs that will reap a great reward in the future?
15. Today’s text points to a different kind of church membership benefit. It’s a benefit that is related to integrity, to principle, to just doing what is right. That is an appeal to very few who name the name of Christ, but to all those who are genuinely converted.
16. Turn, if you would, to First Timothy 3.14. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word. We read First Timothy 3.14-16:
14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
17. There are two truths that I want us to glean from what we have just read:
1A. First, THE PLACE WHERE PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS TO TIMOTHY WILL BE EXECUTED
“. . . that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself”
Did your mother raise you right? Did she make sure you know how to behave? My mother used to urge my dad to take the four of us out to eat at a restaurant once a month so she could teach us how to behave in public, and how to eat without embarrassing the family. She also taught us how to wash clothes, how to wash dishes, how to cook and clean house, and many other things that I am sure I take for granted.
In the same fashion does a Christian need to be taught how to behave himself in the house of God. Have you ever been taught how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God? That is, have you considered allowing your pastor to instruct you concerning your duties, and to impart to you the needed skills to function as a faithful church member? It’s surprising how many people go to church for the longest time without ever placing themselves at the man of God’s disposal so he can do for him what Paul is doing here with Timothy.
But how to conduct yourself in the midst of the congregation is not the thrust of this morning’s message. What I want you to focus on is the place where Paul wanted Timothy to behave himself. In verse 15 are found three phrases that describes the one place where Timothy was to faithfully serve God. Let’s read that verse again: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
1B. First, we see the phrase “in the house of God”
1C. Paul is obviously not referring to a physical structure or any kind of a material building here. We know from church history that except for the occasional synagogue that was abandoned when the Romans expelled all Jews from the city of Rome, Christians did not meet in church buildings for several centuries after Paul wrote to Timothy.
2C. But Paul did describe their church congregation using these kinds of words when he wrote to the Corinthians. If you will turn to First Corinthians 3.9, notice that Paul described that Corinthian church, that congregation of people, as a building, as God’s building.
3C. So, when Paul refers to “the house of God” when writing to Timothy, he is not referring to brick and mortar, wood and shingles. He is referring to a spiritual building. He is referring to a church congregation.
2B. Paul continues, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God.”
1C. Of course, the word “church” translates the Greek word ekklhsia, which refers to an assembly. But assemblies assemble. Thus, again, the reference here is not to a physical building, or to some nebulous concept of all Christians everywhere who have to date never assembled.
2C. To the Ephesian elders the last time he would see them, Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God . . . ,” Acts 20.28. This is obviously referring to the pastoral ministry of that congregation in Ephesus and not to some universal invisible concept of the church.
3C. Paul used the phrase “church of God” to refer to the congregation five different times when writing to the Corinthians. Here is a sample of what he wrote, in Second Corinthians 1.1: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia.”
4C. My friends, the house of God is the church of God, which is the congregation, or the assembly of believers, that comprises a church.
3B. Look at First Timothy 3.15 again, to see the final of these three descriptions of a church.
“. . . the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
1C. A “pillar,” of course, is a column that holds up the roof and supports the walls of a structure. The word “ground” refers to the foundation and the buttress of a building.
2C. To state the matter succinctly, Paul is informing Timothy that the assembly he pastors, that congregation of Christians, is the spiritual foundation, buttress, and pillar on which the truth is held up for all to see.
3C. Thus, where the man of God is supposed to be, where the Christian is supposed to be, where the cutting edge of Christian ministry and the advance of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ happens to be, is the local church congregation.
2A. Then, THERE IS THE FUNCTION OF THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” Which is to say, no one would argue that godliness, that which has to do with God, the work of God, and the ways of God, is a great mystery. But here are the high points that the church of the living God, the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, Calvary Road Baptist Church, upholds through her efforts and ministry.
As the pillar and ground of the truth, a congregation such as ours, and only a congregation such as ours, upholds and declares the mystery of godliness. Here are the high points, the most obvious features, the pinnacles that rise above the murky clouds of uncertainty, of this mystery of godliness:
1B. First, “God was manifest in the flesh”
The Lord Jesus Christ was not a created being. He was not the archangel Michael. He was not the offspring of some Roman soldier. He was not some yogi who learned flexibility and breathing techniques in India. Neither was He an itinerant seeking truth. As a matter of fact, He was not anything. He is what He has always been, very God of very God. And one day God took upon Himself human flesh and became a man. This is the message which we preach.
2B. Next, He was “justified in the Spirit”
1C. Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God, we do not take this as meaning justified in the same sense that a sinner is justified by faith. Rather, we take this to mean that He was vindicated, that He was shown to be what He all along was and is by the Spirit of God.
2C. When and how was this vindication achieved? He was arrested as a sinner. He was accused as a sinner. He was tried as a sinner. He was crucified as a sinner. He was buried as a sinner. But when He was quickened by the Spirit, Who raised Him from the dead, He was once and for all time vindicated and shown to be the Son of God with power. This is the message which we preach.
3B. Third, He was “seen of angels”
1C. This is not a reference to the more than 500 men and women who saw the Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead. This refers not to Peter or Paul and John or James, or even Thomas being witnesses to His glorious resurrection.
2C. This refers to the angel Gabriel, to the archangel Michael, to the cherubim and to the seraphim, and to the rest of the heavenly host. Some of them attended His incarnation and sang in the heavenly choir outside Bethlehem. Others watched over His temptation in the wilderness, after which they ministered to Him. Still others were dispatched to stand by during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, where one angel strengthened Him. Then they looked on with horror as He was brutalized and then crucified. One rolled the stone away on the occasion of His resurrection, while the others looked on. And they rejoiced together at His ascension.
3C. Yes, He was seen of angels, for He is the Lord of angels. This is the message which we preach, that Jesus Christ is lord of all.
4B. Fourth, He is “preached unto the Gentiles”
We Gentiles are the worst of all men. We are the idolaters, the unclean, the perverse, and the foolish. Yet He “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” Hebrews 7.25. This is the message which we preach.
5B. Fifth, He is “believed on in the world”
1C. It used to be that He was believed on in this part of the world. But our society is now far too sophisticated and refined to need the blood sacrifice and that old time hard preaching religion. People in our parts are mommies and daddies of good little boys and girls, and they yearn for finery and acceptability, as if any of that will stand them in good stead come judgment day. So, the Lord Jesus Christ is not so much believed on here any more. Not like used to be.
2C. But if He is not believed on here, He is believed on in China. If He is not believed in here, He is believed on in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. If He is not believed on here, He is believed on in Nigeria and Sudan and Chad. If He is not believed on here, He is believed on in Russia and Romania and Poland and Israel.
3C. But I think there will come a day when the markets crash, when the defenses crumble, when there is anarchy in the streets, when the homosexual agenda is advanced even farther, and when superpower status passes from our country to China for the greater part of the 21st century, that perhaps God will visit us again, and some of the hard, the stubborn, the self-sufficient among us will be humbled and will finally turn to Christ. This is the message we preach.
6B. Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ was “received up into glory”
But not to stay. Received up into glory to come again. And when He comes again He will not be coming as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Rather, He will come as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to smite the nations and men who oppose Him. This is the message we preach.
1. My friend, this is not the kind of truth held up for all to see by parachurch ministries, by Christian television, by seeker friendly churches, or by mainline denominational churches that are full of gray-haired old ladies.
2. This is the truth held up by first generation Christians in churches just like ours, where people work to get the gospel out, where preachers sweat when delivering the old, old story, and where people get offended by the offense of the cross (though they will usually claim it’s the preacher’s personality that has made them mad).
3. After brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song I have a few closing remarks.
1. Are you put off by the rot and moral decay of our society? Does not the decadence and moral dullness of the people cause you to wonder where it will all end up?
2. My friends, we are living in the apostasy. We are living in the last days. These are the end times. Expository preaching is featured in almost every church for those who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
3. People learn and learn and learn and learn, but they don’t know anything. Learn all you want about God, but if you do not end up fearing Him then you have learned nothing. Study prophesy all you want, but if you do not end up fearing the judgment of the great day then you have learned nothing.
4. What most people lose sight of is that the right thing must be done the right way. God has a message that He wants to get out, but He has also prescribed the proper means of getting that message out. He has truth that He wants upheld, but He has predetermined the program by which He wants the truth upheld.
5. So, what is the program God has predetermined to uphold the truth, the mystery of godliness? This church. This congregation. You church members. You are the pillar and ground of the truth.
6. So, what should you determine to do, church member? Two things:
1A. First, STAND UP AS A PILLAR
1B. It’s not all that complicated. Is it? What a pillar does is stand up. Nothing flashy is required. Nothing terribly imaginative is required. But standing up is absolutely required.
2B. If you do not stand up, what happens to the building? If you do not hold up, what happens to the building? It comes down. It will not stand.
3B. My fellow church member, you must stand up. You must stand steady. You must hold up. You must carry your load. You must, or catastrophe is the result and all comes crashing down.
4B. Aaron and Hur had to hold up the arms of Moses while Israel fought the Amalekites or else they would not have prevailed. Those two men functioned as pillars, holding up the arms of Moses. You need to do the same with truth.
2A. Then, YOU MUST BEAR UP AS THE GROUND
1B. Remember, this word means foundation or buttress. If the chief characteristic of a pillar is its prominence, the chief characteristic of a foundation is its strength and stability.
2B. Not only must the truth be held up high, which is the function of a pillar, so all around can see, but it must also be held steady and firm so it does not appear to waver and so it will not topple.
1. If the previous benefits of being a church member have to do with the benefits that come from receiving, this is the benefit that comes from giving.
2. To participate in a church that functions as the pillar and ground of the truth requires determination, dedication, faithfulness.
3. Listen to what Paul wrote, in First Corinthians 4.1-2: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
4. Then, in First Corinthians 15.58, he wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
5. Bulldog tenacity. Iron-willed determination. Clenched-jaw toughness. We need members who have counted the cost and who will pay the price. We need members whose weekly calendars belong to God, not just their pocketbooks.
6. To be sure, much grace is required . . . but much grace is available. Cleverness is not so much valued as is concern. Ability is not so much valued as is availability. No matter what happens on Tuesday, the darkness is spreading over our land and our task is clear.
7. We are the pillar and ground of the truth. Great is the mystery of godliness. Our job is to hold up the truth and to hold it as steady and as high as we can. Therefore, each and every one of us needs to be a different kind of church member than we are used to seeing here in southern California. We need to be the kind of church members that are found in the Bible.
8. Don’t schedule anything to conflict with our important church duties. Our Sunday services and Saturday evangelism should be sacrosanct. Why so? The darkness is overwhelming our land, people. And we are the pillar and ground of the truth. Their only hope is the mystery of godliness, which we hold up for all to see.
 Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 624.