Sermons & Podcasts

The Household of God

August 13, 2023 Speaker: Chris Oswald Series: The Household of God

Passage: 1 Timothy 3:14–15

Today, we’re beginning our time in First Timothy.


Timothy would’ve read the entire letter in one sitting. That offers a very different experience than going slowly through a book. There are things you miss when you go slow. And so I thought I’d preach a bit of an overview sermon introducing the whole book. 


Paul tells us his purpose for writing the letter in chapter 3. 


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. — 1 Tim 3:14–15.


Notice the phrase, “I hope to come to you soon but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay…”


You can think of this from God’s perspective or from Paul’s perspective. 


A. Paul’s Plans


From Paul’s perspective, he really felt like the information in this letter was quite important. He had every intention of coming to Timothy. And back then, letter writing was a whole ordeal. The paper was expensive. You almost always hired someone to dictate. Then there was the delivery of the letter.


So if you were going to see the person eventually, then you may as well wait and tell them in person. But Paul felt like the subject was too important to wait. 


B. God’s Providence


From God’s perspective, he wanted a lot more people than Timothy to hear what Paul had to say. So he caused him to be delayed. And I’m sure there were many other reasons as well. 


Yes, make plans, do your best to live a non-chaotic life. But don’t become a control freak. God has all sorts of good for you and for others within “broken plans” category. 


John Stott writes,


Thus by a deliberate providence of God the New Testament letters came to be written and have been preserved for the edification of the church in subsequent generations. If the apostles’ directions regarding the doctrine, ethics, unity and mission of the church had been given only in oral form, the church would have been like a mapless traveller and a rudderless ship. But because the apostolic instructions were written down, we know what we would not otherwise have known, namely how people ought to conduct themselves in the church.




Which brings us to the next line. 


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. — 1 Tim 3:14–15.


How one ought to behave. At the risk of sounding old. I do not hear that phrase as much as I used to. When I was young, my mom and dad were kinda like protocol officers. If we were going to church, we were told how to behave in church. If were going to visit my great-grandmother, we were told how to behave in the retirement home. If we were going to an antique store, we were told how to behave there. If I was going to a friend’s birthday party, I was told how to behave there.


And very often, the protocols involved both do’s and don’ts. Do hug your grandmother. Don’t race in the wheelchairs down the halls. Every place had its do’s and don’ts. 




Paul is saying that the church is the household of God. And every household has rules.


Many households have similar rules, but for different reasons.


Parents, the reason for your rules is a big deal. You don’t always have to communicate the reasons, your children don’t deserve an explanation all the time. But I think its very important that you know the reasons for your rules and that those reasons be godly. 



You can have two homes with exactly the same rules but different reasons. For instance, “no interrupting.” That could flow from “because you’re a kid and who cares what you have to say.” Or it can flow from, “let’s put others before ourselves.”


Since this is an overview sermon, we won’t get into the specific rules. That’ll happen as we make our way through the book. This text doesn’t have any rules. What it does have are reasons for the rules. 


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. — 1 Tim 3:14–15.






Consider the phrase “living God.” One reason for the household rules is that God is present. This is what theologians sometimes refer to as “Corem Deo” which means “all of life in the presence of God.”


John Stott writes… 


Where does the living God live? Joshua answered this question succinctly: ‘The living God is among you.’ For this was the essence of God’s covenant promise to Israel: ‘I will dwell among you and be your God, and you shall be my people.’ Israel’s consciousness that the living God lived among them profoundly affected their community life. Even an elementary lesson in personal hygiene was based on the fact that the LORD God walked among them and must not see anything indecent. And they were incensed when the heathen presumed to ‘defy’, ‘insult’ or ‘ridicule’ the living God.


An even more vivid consciousness of the presence of the living God should characterize the Christian church today. For we are ‘the temple of the living God’, ‘a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’.


So one reason for the rules in 1 Timothy is that God is present in the household of faith. Now before I move on to the next reason, I think it is important to add that you are always in the household of faith. You are always in the church.


When you’re at home. Your still in the household of God. Your still in the church. 

When you’re at work. Your still in the household of God. Your still in the church.

When you’re on vacation. Your still in the household of God. Your still in the church.


You’re never not in the household of God. Your whole life is Corem Deo — in the presence of God. And so, you always ought to behave like it. 




There’s another latin phrase that applies to this phrase, “the living God”, another reason for the rules. And that phrase is Missio Dei — which means, the mission of God.


When we see the phrase, “the living God” in the scripture, there’s usually a kind of contention, rivalry, competition embedded into the meaning.


Stott writes, 


On a number of occasions in the Old Testament Yahweh is named ‘the living God’ in deliberate contrast to the lifeless idols of the heathen. Indeed, still today Christian conversion involves turning ‘to God from idols to serve the living and true God’


Indeed this rivalry appears to be embedded in the first verse of 1 Timothy. 


“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…” (1:1)


In Paul’s day, there was another person who was referred to as savior. Namely Caesar. 


In his commentary on 1 Timothy, Donald Guthrie writes that the phrase God our Savior would have a contemporary significance in that the term Saviour (sōtēr) was used in the cult of emperor worship and was being applied to the infamous Nero.”


“Perhaps an implied contrast may be found in the apostle’s use of the possessive our.” 


As in, “People have different saviors.” God is our savior. 


So another reason for these household rules is that we are in competition with other households of other gods, other saviors, other lords. Our behavior is meant to prove that our God is the one true God. And that there is no other name in heaven or earth by which men may be saved.


This idea is further conveyed in the next phrase, “the pillar and buttress of truth."


What does that mean? 


hedraiōma — a component that exists to stabilize

stylos — a pillar meant to raise something up


Timothy is pastoring in the city of Ephesus. The religious capital of the Roman Empire. High Church Paganism. 


Again from Stott,


The inhabitants of Ephesus had a vivid illustration of this in their temple of Diana or Artemis. Regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, it boasted 100 Ionic columns, each over 18 metres high, which together lifted its massive, shining, marble roof. Just so, the church holds the truth aloft, so that it is seen and admired by the world. Indeed, as pillars lift a building high while remaining themselves unseen, so the church’s function is not to advertise itself but to advertise and display the truth.


Here then is the double responsibility of the church vis-à-vis the truth. First, as its foundation it is to hold it firm, so that it does not collapse under the weight of false teaching. Secondly, as its pillar it is to hold it high, so that it is not hidden from the world. To hold the truth firm is the defense and confirmation of the gospel; to hold it high is the proclamation of the gospel. The church is called to both these ministries.


We can summarize this whole section as we have household rules because “the church lives in the presence of God and in the presence of God’s enemies.”




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. — 1 Tim 3:14–15.


“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”


The greek does not give us a clear sense of who Paul is talking about. 


  1. How all people ought to behave
  2. How Timothy ought to behave


There are good supports in favor of both arguments. 


We can certainly see plenty of commands that extend to the whole body and not just Timothy. 


Instructions for Men & Women —1 Timothy 2:8–10.

Instructions for Deacons — 1 Timothy 3:8–9

Instructions for Slaves — 1 Timothy 6:1-2

Instructions for the Rich — 1 Timothy 6:17-19


But the overall sense of the letter is mostly directed to Timothy.


I think one thing we can say for sure is that household rules are utterly dependent on household rulers. In any household, the rules are as real as the leader of the household makes them. 





And now we’ve got something very closely related to Paul’s charge to Timothy in 4:16, 


“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”


When it comes to a household, the head of that household makes all the difference.




And indeed we see Paul charging Timothy over and over again to teach, command, instruct. 


1 Timothy 1:3–4


3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 


1 Timothy 4:6


6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.


1 Timothy 4:11–13


11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.


1 Timothy 5:7


7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach.


1 Timothy 6:2


Teach and urge these things.


1 Timothy 6:17


17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.




Working backwards, 


1 Timothy 6:20


 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.


1 Timothy 6:13-14 


11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,


1 Timothy 5:21


In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.


1 Timothy 4:15 


Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.


So on… 




We’ve covered a lot of ground. Let me review. 


The church is the household of the living God.

Like any household, there are rules.

The reasons for our rules are:

  1. God is among us
  2. So are his rivals


Like all household rules, the weight of responsibility falls on the head of the household.

He must communicate them.

He must keep them.




Three objectives for this sermon series:


  1. Refreshing. I think people are not as close to Jesus as they once were. Will you join me in praying for that to change.


  1. Reformation. I think we get sloppy. We stop thinking about “how we ought to behave.” Will you join me in praying for that to change.


  1. Raising up Pastors. This book will remind us how important pastors are. 


We have a great deal of data that shows how central fathers are to human flourishing. 


The world needs fathers — desperately.

The church needs pastors — desperately.


John Calvin wrote that pastors were the “sinew by which believers are held together in one body.”


And elsewhere wrote, 


“For neither are the light and heat of the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral office to preserve a Church in the earth.”


Every Christian should pray micro prayers and macro prayers. Micro prayers like praying for a raise, for your kids, for your relatives salvation, etc…


Macro prayers are like praying for the church in Iran or Pakistan or praying that God raises up pastors to serve the church in the future generations. 


Will you join me in praying, not just for this church, but for the church, that God would richly furnish his church with men who will shepherd his church by clearly communicating the rules and faithfully conforming his own life to them? 




For communion, I want to go back to this phrase, the household of God. I want us to remember that the aim of all parts of the gospel is your adoption into the family of God.


He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies — all of it — to make you his son or daughter.


This is amazing to me. 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” — 1 John 3:1

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. — 1 Corinthians 11:23-26


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