The Household of God | 1 Timothy 3:14-4:5

The Household of God | 1 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Today we are in 1st Timothy chapters 3 and 4. Up to this point in 1st Timothy, Paul is giving Timothy instructions on how to order God’s church. Timothy is in the church at Ephesus, and so far Paul has written about the centrality of the gospel, how to combat false teaching, the importance of being a praying church, and qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon. 

And now we come to perhaps the heart of the letter. Paul shares why he’s writing what he’s writing. Lynn Hackler is going to come and read for us. Lynn is one of our deacons. He also serves on the personnel committee, and he delivered some really good breakfast casserole to our house yesterday for the middle school boys. I know you likely get zero credit for making the casserole. I’m guessing that was Jane. But thank you for delivering it. 1st Timothy 3:14, and we’ll be reading through chapter 4, verse 5. 1st Timothy 3:14-4:5. 

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit, 
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

You may be seated. How we’ll organize our time is by giving blueprints for the household of God. If you’ve ever looked at actual blueprints before, you may know that oftentimes they have different dimensions. One set of blueprints shows the plumbing, the next the electricity, and the next the structure itself. So I want us to see three dimensions to these blueprints of the household of God: we have belief, behavior, then stability. 

  1. Belief

This is the most important blueprint for the household of God. I love what Paul calls the church there in verse 15. We are “the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Now, I know buttress is not a word commonly used anymore, but “buttress” is another word for foundation. And you don’t have to be an engineer or in construction to understand the importance of a foundation for a home. Paul says that the church is not only the foundation of truth, but it’s also the pillar of truth. Pillars, they stand up and give a building its structure and oftentimes its beauty. So the church is not the source for truth, right? No, no. We don’t provide the truth or determine the truth. Truth comes from God. But the church, when it is faithful to God’s Word, upholds the truth found in it. In the world in which we live, God’s church is the foundation and pillar for God’s truth. 

I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty heavy thing for Paul to right! This household of God, this family of God, is a pillar and buttress for truth in the world! We’re the ones who’ve been given the awesome responsibility of standing upon and upholding the truth of God’s Word. And what is the heart of that truth? It’s Christ. Verse 16: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of Godliness.” You may remember last week, “mystery” refers to Christ. It’s no longer a mystery, but throughout the Old Testament the specific plan and person through which God was going to save the world had not yet been revealed. So Paul is saying “great” is this mystery, in other words “great” is Christ who has been revealed! 

Christ was “manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Paul writes here a beautiful hymn about Christ. And you can understand this verse as three pairs. “Manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit.” That’s Christ becoming a man, then Christ being resurrected. “Seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations.” Angels saw everything that Christ did. You see throughout the New Testament, that angels were often with him and attending to him. So both heaven and earth saw and witnessed to Christ. “Seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations. Then the third pair: “Believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Christ was received by some in the world, and certainly received by the Father when he ascended back to heaven. 

Here’s the crux of it: At the center of our faith is Christ. Christ is the center. He is the cornerstone that we stand upon and hold up to the rest of the world. There are some things that we can disagree on within the church. There is no doubt. But we cannot, must not disagree upon the identity and ministry of Jesus Christ. God in the flesh, sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding on behalf of those who have believed upon him. 

John the apostle summarized it well in the beginning of his gospel: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” No one can have any part of the family of God, the household of God, without first believing upon Christ alone. That’s the first dimension of these blueprints. The second dimension is this: 

2. Behavior

Now I really include this in here because that’s what the whole letter is about. Verses 14 and 15 are the two verses we’ve read almost every week, because Paul tells us why he’s writing this letter: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God…” Some of your translations may say, “how you ought to conduct yourselves.” The King James says “how thou oughtest to behave thyself.” That probably doesn’t help you in understanding it, but I love the way it sounds! 

Conduct, or how we behave, is so important to Paul that he spends now three chapters so far in this letter talking about it. How deacons and elders can be selected. But also young families: I know what is right and wrong, the gospel, prayer, false teachers. Distinctions between men and women as far as elder/Pastor and the task of preaching. 

We as God’s people, God’s family, are to live a different way than the rest of the world. Not only in our personal lives, but also as the body of Christ. Now Paul doesn’t go into detail here with behavior and conduct, because that’s what he doesn’t for the rest of the letter. So the third dimension of these blueprints:

3. Stability

With Christ as our Rock, and with knowing how we’re to function as God’s church, we then can move on to looking at stability. How do we stay living according to God’s Word? How do we keep Christ at the center at all times? It’s pretty simple, but crucial. We cling to Christ and His Word. This warning we see in chapter 4, verses 1-5, may seem to have limitations in how we apply it today, but in reality that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Verse 1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” So, God has made it clear that some will depart. It says “the Spirit expressly says”… that seems to be referring to Christ. In Revelation what Jesus says is often referred to as “what the Spirit says.” And Jesus certainly says things like what we see here in verse 1. Mark 13:22 is one example. 

So there will be some who are not stable. Who do not cling to Christ. And there are many ways to stray, but Paul brings up one in particular, clearly one they were dealing with here in the church at Ephesus. Because these who are departing are devoting themselves to evil teachings, verse 2, “through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” This is just scathing. Paul is saying, no matter how innocent and sincere these false teachers may seem, they are insincere and their consciences are seared. In other words, most of them know what they’re doing! 

So, what specifically, were they dealing with in the church at Ephesus? What were some clinging to other than Christ? Why were they not stable and consistent? Because some had adopted a form of asceticism. That means they were forbidding things that God allowed! Instead of clinging to Christ and His Word, they were adding to the Law of God! Saying that things like marital intimacy was impure. Or certain foods. And Paul makes it so clear here that we cannot reject what God has made holy! Let me read verses 3-5 again. This is what these false teachers were teaching: 

“who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

Now, in our culture today, I think the dominant struggle is with the opposite of asceticism. The dominant struggle is with complete indulgence of all worldly pleasures. Including for Christians, that’s the more common struggle. But here’s what we must not do: we must not think that the way to combat the excessive indulgence we see in the world is by depriving ourselves of things to make us feel even more holy than we already are in Christ. 

We cling to Christ and his word. He need not add to it! Certainly, as far as marriage goes—marriage is a holy union, a beautiful union. And marital intimacy is a healthy and Godly thing. The Catholic Church, particularly in the middle ages, that sexual intimacy was evil, even within marriage. You might be surprised at what some of the early church fathers wrote about sexual love. Ambrose wrote this: “married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living.” Why? Because they’re sexually intimate. Even Augustine was known for counseling married couples to abstain from sex. Not for a time or for a particular purpose, but just in general! The Roman church prohibited sexual intimacy on certain days of the year, in fact, well over 100 days of the year! 

This is all part of why the Reformation in the 16th century was so important. It was a return to the Bible. It was a return to clinging to Christ and His Word, not these manmade rules and regulations that really only built up false self-righteousness. 

Now again: this is not the dominant struggle in our culture today. Sex in particular is “whatever you want whenever you want.” It’s the opposite. And that’s certainly not what Paul is promoting here. In fact, next week we’ll see what Paul writes about training ourselves for Godliness. There is certainly discipline involved in the Christian life. There are certainly things we are to abstain from. Sex outside of marriage. Too much wine. But what we never want to do is add things to God’s Word, and therefore call God’s good creation anything but good. 

Marriage is a beautiful gift from God. It was instituted by God himself. Therefore, verse 4, it is good. It is not to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. We’re not only to embrace marriage and food, but we’re to receive it with grateful hearts! That doesn’t mean some of us aren’t called to singleness. We know from 1st Corinthians 7 that singleness is another gift that he calls some of us to. This also doesn’t mean we don’t at times practice fasting for a time, for spiritual purposes. But, we certainly don’t ever call things bad that God has called good. Do not contradict God! That’s not our place. In fact, that’s no one’s place. God is God is God is God. He determines what is good, not us. 


This is such an important blueprint for the household of God. Stability. Stability that can only be embraced by clinging to Christ and His Word. We have believed upon Christ alone for salvation. He is our only Hope. We conduct ourselves according to God’s Word, especially when we gather here as God’s people. And then, how do we not stray away? We cling to Christ and His Word. We do NOT add to God’s Word. We do NOT call God’s good gifts evil. 

Let me bring this all together by sharing a few of God’s gifts that I think, at times, we take for granted in the church. At times, these are God’s good gifts that we don’t always treat like God’s good gifts. 

  1. Food. Obviously, we can start with Paul’s examples, right? Food. Food is something we should receive with thanksgiving. That’s why many of us pray before we eat. Hopefully to instill in our hearts a sense of gratefulness. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with you deciding to only eat certain foods, especially for health reasons, or because you want to be healthy. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that is part of your Christian life or Christian duty. Don’t treat that as a spiritual exercise. 
  2. Marriage, and particularly marital intimacy. Sex is a beautiful gift of God, when experienced in His parameters, which is marriage between a man and woman. Sex is not gross or weird or unholy in any way. It is a gift from God, for procreation as well as for emotional and physical unity in the marriage. 
  3. Work. Did you know that work is one of God’s good gifts? Work was instituted before the fall. And yet some of us have as our primary goals in life to do as little work as possible, or retire as soon as humanly possible. I’m not saying those are bad things; I’m saying, make sure you understand that work is one of God’s good gifts. 
  4. Gender. If we’re clinging to Christ and His Word. If Christ is our foundation, then we understand that God created two genders, and they are beautiful and good. This is the biggest problem with egalitarianism: it calls God’s good gifts evil. It says there should be no meaningful distinctions between men and women. Not according to Christ! And we cling to Him! 
  5. Lastly, children. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with waiting to have children. There’s certainly nothing wrong with not being able to have children. But, in our culture today, we do not value children as gifts from God. We put them off because we want to have our real fun and joy before settling down. We resent them because they have interrupted our self-centered lives. We’re eager to pawn them off or see them out of the home to give us a desperately-needed break. Don’t mishear me. I’m a father of four young children. I know how crazy things can be. But as believers, we cling to Christ and His Word. That’s our blueprint for life. And God’s Word says children are a gift! That means we don’t deserve them. They are good, and we’re to receive them and love them and raise them with thankfulness. 

We could list many other examples of things we’re tempted to avoid that God created and calls good. But in summary: This Christ whom we love so dearly. Who was “manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory.” We cling to Him. 

And we don’t retreat so far from the world that we cannot enjoy God’s good creations. We need not join the Amish, or Mennonite brethren. We enjoy God’s good creation, including the creative and innovative fruit of the human mind, like modern technology and medicine and art. We are made in the image of God, and those modern advancements should point us to our God who made us in some ways like Himself- like with rational minds. 

But in all these things, we cling to Christ and to His Word. We do not call things good that Christ calls evil. We do not call things evil that Christ calls good, verse 5- things “made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Let Christ be God.