“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-16).
You have, no doubt, heard the old adage, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Meaning, there are some things that just naturally fit together. Well, that same thing may be said about the relationship between the Christian’s behavior and his belief; they compliment each other. My mother, too, had a proverb that often gave me pause to think when I had done something, or she thought that I was about to do something that was not compatible with a good Christian testimony. She would say, “Son, remember that what you do speaks so loudly that people cannot hear what you say.” Yes, belief and behavior go together.
The Apostle Paul, in our text, is so concerned over the growing need for pure Grace doctrine to be adorned by a godly way of life and conduct that he is inspired to write the churches rather than take a chance that he may not have an opportunity to visit them later. The whole of 1 Timothy is taken up with this matter and is so stated in our text: “How believers ought to behave in the household of God” – “The church of the Living God” (not a place of public worship but an assembly of believers). Just as there is a need for order and discipline in secular society, so there is a need for the same in sacred society.
Here the Apostle Paul describes the role of the Church as the “pillar and ground” of the truth. This is an important point that he is making and one not hard to understand. The stability of any structure, even a spiritual one, is dependant upon the quality of the foundation and its support. It is in this role that behavior is so important. The Church’s role is to support or hold high “the truth” for the entire world to see. “The Truth rests upon this structure.
The relationships between sound doctrine and correct conduct is addressed in Paul’s instructions to the Bishops (3:1-7) and Deacons (3:8-13). Verse 9 is of special interest.
“Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”
I believe this connects with what he says about “the truth” in verse 15. Let me explain. The Church is “holding,” in guardianship, “the faith / the truth.” The Church being described here as a “pillar,” strongly implies that, as such, it is responsible to hold “the faith / the truth” aloft for the world to see, as one would display a precious possession. Paul does not simply say we are to exercise care for the protection of “faith / truth,” but, rather, calls for protection of “the faith / the truth.” I believe the article “the” preceding the words “faith” and “truth” are to call attention to a particular body of truth—hence, “the faith / the truth.” This also is the explanation of his use of the word “Mystery” in connection with their use.
The “Mystery” is a thing hidden: a secret, purpose or counsel; in this text it is a previously-hidden truth. We believe that this particular corpus of truth was revealed to and through the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-9; Col. 1:26). The elements of this truth / faith amounts to a doctrinal statement that has become known as the Grace Message or what Paul called “my gospel.” Some of its features include:
The Church is a distinct and separate agency from any other agency, for the execution of God’s plan and purpose (Eph. 5:29-32).
- All believers, Jew and Gentile, without distinction or exception, are united to Christ and other believers in what is called “the Body of Christ” and the “New Man” (Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:5, 14-22; 4:24; Col. 3:10-11).
- Christ has come to live out His life within all believers (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:26-27).
- Christ has a new identity and relationship with believers. He is the “Head” and we as the “Body” are inseparably united to Him. Paul calls this the “Mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3).
- Christians are citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and seated with Christ (Eph. 1:3; 2:7).
- Christ is the “fulness of the Godhead” – “the mystery of God” (Col. 2:2, 9).
- Believers are given the hope of a Rapture and resurrection transformation before the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15; cf., Jer. 30:7).
- The process by which godlikeness (godliness) is restored back to believing men –”The Mystery of Godliness.”
It is over the issue of godliness raised in point number 8 that behavior and belief are tied together. In the Old Testament, godliness was a matter of external obedience to the Law (Jas. 2:10). With the revelation of the “Mystery,” believers learn the process by which godlikeness (godliness) is restored to believing man. That is why immediately following Paul’s statement concerning behavior and belief in our text he exclaims, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.”