Many today reject the church as vital or even necessary for Christians. There are multitudes of people who consider TV, books, magazines, devotionals, or podcasts as their “church.” Is it possible to have a vibrant spiritual life and successfully nurture our relationship with God apart from a local church? Is it just tradition that tells us we much be a part of one? Is it possible to move closer to God and farther away from the church? Are there lots of alternatives to the church when it comes to our spiritual growth?
The answer to all of those questions, according to Scripture, is a resounding no! Far from being one of many options for the Christian, the church is the primary means through which God accomplishes His plan in the world. It is His instrument to evangelize the world and to sanctify those who are born into His family. Therefore God expects a commitment to the church from everyone who claims to know Him.
1 Timothy 3:15 “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.”
It’s the House of God
The phrase “house of God” indicates that the church is God’s dwelling place or immediate family. Both meanings are applied to the church in Scripture, and both provide profound testimony to its divine origin and significance.
The Church is God’s Dwelling Place – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22; Revelation 1:12-13, 16, 20
If we want to be where God is, we need to be in His church, for that is where he dwells. And the way we relate to Him is largely dependent upon the way we relate to His church, for it is the house He has built with His own hands (1 Peter 2:5).
The Church is God’s Family – 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12
If Pastors and deacons need their households in order, how much more should God’s own household be in order! We need to be in His family if we want to consider Him our Father. With Paul’s words in mind, how could people call God their Father while refusing to be a part of His family? Yet that plain contradiction essentially describes the position of those who say they have faith and salvation apart from the church.
It’s the Church of the Living God
The church proceeded from God and belongs to God. He is the living God – the only true God; at all times, He is personally and actively involved in its operation and enterprises.
It’s the Pillar of Truth
Paul’s next descriptive name for the church—“pillar” –tells us that it actually holds up the truth. God’s truth doesn’t stand without the church. Of course, Jesus promised that His church will be a permanent institution (Matthew 16:18). Our relationship to God and His truth is in mortal danger if the church doesn’t occupy its intended place in our lives. To those who abandon the church, their faith has crumbled—because they have torn away the pillar that upholds the truth.
How does the church function as a pillar of truth?
- Revelation: God chose to reveal the truth of the New Testament in and through the church –Ephesians 3:8-11
- Preservation: God chose the church to recognize His words and preserve them for all generations
- Proclamation: God chose the church to proclaim the truth to the world—Matthew 28:18-20
- Administration: God chose the church to provide the structure and order He has devised for worship and growth—1 Timothy 3:15
- Protection: God chose the church to protect the truth from error—Romans 16:17; Titus 3:9-11; 2 John 9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:1-6; Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
It’s the Ground of the Truth
Think of this as the foundation that the pillar rests upon. Paul wanted Timothy to know that the church is the one institution that God has promised to preserve throughout all time (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21). God hasn’t given this promise to rescuing America from decline or parachurch ministries.