Sunday, December 18, 2011

God's Household

1 Tim 3:14-15 Although I hope to come to you before long, I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 If I am detained, you may know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and stay (the prop and support) of the Truth. AMP
Many large corporations publish what they call an "employee's guide" or an "employee's handbook." This manual provides detailed information about how the company operates. In essence, it serves as a kind of corporate rule book. The church has a similar manual. The New Testament outlines the principles by which the church is to operate. While the entire Bible has bearing on the life of the church, the pastoral epistles, including the book of 1 Timothy, provide specific instructions about its organizational structure, policies, and practices. According to 1 Tim 3:15, one of the reasons Paul wrote this epistle was so that Timothy would know how to conduct himself in the "God's household."
The Greek term that is translated "household" often refers to a dwelling place or house. The phrase "house of God" is frequently used in reference to the tabernacle and the temple (Ex 23:19; Deut 23:18; 1 Chron 9:13; Matt 12:4). It can also refer to a group of people. When it is used in this latter sense, it often means "family" (Gen 17:23; Acts 10:2). At times, both senses are combined. Heb 3:4-5 notes that, "every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything" and then characterizes Moses as being "faithful as a servant in all God's house."
In 1 Tim 3:14-15, Paul combines both ideas when referring to the church. It is the household, or family, of God. Consequently, many of the principles that are true of the family also hold true in the church. For example, those who exercise leadership in the church must also have a proven record of leadership in the home: "If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?" (1 Tim 3:5; cf. 3:12).
Like any family, God's household has an authority structure. Those who serve as elders ex- ercise "oversight" over God's people and "shepherd" them like a flock (1 Peter 5:1-2). As shepherds, the church's elders provide guidance for God's people. The typical member of the church is focused primarily on the present. The elder is interested in the present but is also equally concerned with the church's future. Without a clear sense of direction, the elder will be driven by the flock as it scatters in every direction.
The church's elders also provide protection. When Paul gave instructions to the elders of the church of Ephesus, he charged them: "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
The elders protect the church from threats that come from the outside by guarding against false teachers and false doctrine. They also guard the church from threats that come from inside the church by holding the flock accountable. When they see God's people straying in their Christian lives, part of their responsibility is to guide them back to the proper path. At times, this can be a painful process. Just as the Palestinian shepherd had to use his staff to prod the sheep, the elder must sometimes use the Word of God and the process of church discipline to goad erring believers.
The work of an elder is difficult. It is time-consuming and can be discouraging. An elder often finds that God's people are unresponsive to his efforts to steer them back to a more biblical path of life. The danger in such circumstances is that the elder will develop a grudging spirit.
The apostle Peter warned elders not to shepherd the flock under compulsion but to accept the responsibility voluntarily. He also warned of the danger of approaching this task with mixed motives:
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3
Because spiritual leaders often have access to the church's funds, greed is a real danger. However, we might also expand this warning to include other forms of gain. For example, it could include those who aspire to positions of leadership in the flock because of pride or because they wish to control the church.
There is authority in spiritual leadership, but it is the authority of a servant. Those who serve as elders in the church function as caretakers rather than kings. They are to be examples rather than emperors.
The church is a family, but it is also a temple. In addition to being "the household of God," it is "the pillar and foundation of the truth." It is important to carefully note Paul's wording. He is not merely saying that the church is founded on the truth. The church is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, who is the gospel proclaimed by the apostles (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20). The gospel is called "the word of truth" (Col 1:5). In 1 Tim 3:15, however, Paul says that the church is itself the pillar and foundation of the truth. It could be said that the truth is as dependent upon the church as the church is upon the truth. The church is a support to the truth because it has been entrusted with the gospel and has been given the responsibility of preserving and communicating it.
The church is both the household of God and the house of God. Its members comprise God's family, and God Himself dwells in their midst. It is both the place where God is worshiped and the repository of divine truth. We cannot protect this truth if we refuse to live by it.
Heavenly Father, instruct me through Your Word so that I know what is expected of me as a part of Your household. Teach me by Your truth so that I can truly be its pillar and support. Amen.
Thanks to John Koessler for allowing us to publish his

John Koessler serves as chair and professor of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of ten books and numerous articles. He also serves as a contributing editor for the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, where you can read his monthly “Theology Matters” column. You can contact John via email at or by phone at (312) 329-4077

No comments: