Sunday, April 09, 2006


1Timothy 3:14-16 Important Things About The Church

Bill Hill was a Montana hunting guide. He tells the story of one day when he was tracking game. It happened that he wandered into a Federally protected area. Suddenly a huge grizzly bear came charging at him. It took just a split second for Bill to cast aside the fact that he was in an area where grizzly bears were protected, and he brought his rifle up and shot the bear dead.

When he was brought before a federal official, he was asked to give a statement in his defense for killing an animal on the endangered species list. And he calmly said, "When I saw that bear come smoking down on me, I didn't have any trouble in deciding who was the endangered species."

Well friends, if you're a Christian who is serious about maturing in your Christian faith, then I have news for you–you're on an endangered species list. The Bible says...

1 Peter 5:8 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

And the people Satan especially likes to target are the leaders of a church and those people in the church who are seriously stretching their lives to mature in their Christian faith.

The church is called God's household–it is His most precious possession.

A woman became ill and was taken to the hospital. Her friends asked how she was getting along and were told, "She's improving." They called the next day and were given the same information. This went on for several days, but one night they were told, "She's dead." Asked a friend, "Doctor, what did she die of - improvements?" I wonder if this isn't true of some churches? Some have really died because of "improvements." They have a scholarly ministry, but not a spiritual ministry; good musicians, but not godly musicians; paying members, but not praying members; a new theology from man, but not the never-dying truth from God. If someone should place a tombstone over that kind of a church today, it could be stated that it had spiritually died of "improvements."

In August 2002, the then Archbishop of Canterbury designate - became a Druid.
And many in the church welcomed his appointment to

But let's turn to 1st Timothy 3:15 and get a glimpse of "the church of the living God." What's the church? Is it a building? That's what many people think of when they hear or see the word "church." But that's not the church. In fact, archeologists believe that the first actual church buildings only came on the scene around 300 AD. Before that churches met in halls of large homes, and schools. What's the church? A body of believers. The church in the Bible always refers to people. The Bible says, "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it." He gave Himself for men, not material; for believers, not buildings; for people, not places. Wherever Christians congregate in the name of Christ to study the Scriptures and to observe the ordinances, there's the church, "the house of God."

I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon. 15 But if I should be delayed, [I have written]so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Paul sees that getting things right is so strategic because the church is not a club or any other sort of human organization where you can do what you like. No! Paul is talking (as he says) about nothing less than "God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth."

Important Activity: Prayer And Preaching 1Timothy 2

Important Productivity: Roles and Requirements 1Timothy 3:1-13

Important Theology : its All About The Lord Jesus Christ. 1Timothy 3:16

1 Timothy 3:15, "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

The main deal about the church is the holding forth of the truth. We are not a cultural organization. We are not here to hold ice recitals, although it is good to have good music. We are not here to be offer social commentaries on 20th century affairs in politics or commerce. We are not here even, primarily, to be a nice club of friends, although its nice to have wonderful fellowship and friendships in the local fellowship of believers.

Primarily, the church is designed by God to have the function of proclamation. We are to hold forth the Word of Life to a perishing world. Our songs… useless without the words. Our prayers, useless without the words. Our preaching, must be the Word of God!

Now, of course, there are lots of truths - the truths (in so far as they are true) of science, of history, of sociology and so on. But Paul and the other apostles knew that the truth about Jesus eclipsed all other truth. Nor can God's word and truth be ignored. The consequences are dire for individuals, societies and civilizations, if they ignore God's word. People will suffer not only eternally, but often even now.

Headlines around the world are announcing the publication of a "long lost" and "suppressed" ancient document, known as The Gospel of Judas. The National Geographic Society announced the publication at a major media event April 6, just in time to boost publicity for its special on the National Geographic Channel April 9.
The announcement led to a frenzy of media coverage, ranging from responsible reports to outrageous sensationalism. According to some commentators, the publication of this new document will force a complete reformulation of Christianity and our understanding of both Judas and Jesus. In reality, nothing of the sort is in view. The document is highly interesting, however, offering an ancient and authoritative source into the thinking of heretical groups who offered alternative understandings of Christianity.
The document purports to be written by Judas, even though it certainly was written long after Judas's death. Nevertheless, the very existence of this document, rooted in the third century after Christ, indicates something of the struggle Christian leaders confronted in defining and defending the authentic Gospel against heretical groups such as the Gnostics.
The portion of the text that is now translated is taken from 13 pages of papyrus, with the text written in Coptic, a language of ancient

The portion of the text that is now translated is taken from 13 pages of papyrus, with the text written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egypt.

Writing about the year 180, Irenaeus, a major Christian figure among the early church fathers, identified the text now known as The Gospel of Judas as heretical. We now know a great deal about the Gnostic sects common to the first centuries of Christianity. The particular sect thought to be associated with the origin of The Gospel of Judas was known as the Cainites. The peculiar teachings of this sect included the rehabilitation of many characters presented negatively in the Bible -- starting with Cain. In essence, the Cainites attempted to take the negative figures of the Bible and present them in a heroic light. In order to do this, of course, they had to create alternative texts and an alternative rendering of the story of Jesus.
Simon Gathercole, a New Testament professor at
Aberdeen University, defended the text as authentic, but relatively unimportant. "It is certainly an ancient text, but not ancient enough to tell us anything new," Gathercole explains. "It contains themes which are alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which became popular later."
So it’s a beat up. And the current beat up has more to do with the National geographic advertising a show, than it has with a real discovery made last week. For the Gospel of Judas itself was discovered more than 30 years ago!
So what is the true Church to do at such a time? Answer: it is to be "a pillar and foundation of the truth." That is why Paul is so concerned to root out heresy. The church is useless, if it doesn't teach the truth and deal with error. For one of its great functions is to be "a pillar and foundation of the truth". Of course, the church itself is founded on the truth. It is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" (Eph 2.20). And the truth isn't dependent for its being true on the Church.

But the Church is an instrument God uses. On the one hand it is for holding up the truth high, like a pillar, so that it can be seen far and wide. So the pillars of the Temple of Artemis meant that the Temple of Artemis could be seen from a great distance. On the other hand the church is to be a foundation that helps steady things in respect of the truth when there are storms of heresy and unbelief all around.

"The mystery of godliness" relates to both the divine and the human dimensions of the gospel. On the divine side the gospel is a mystery. A "mystery" in the New Testament refers to a disclosed secret. So the gospel is a mystery in that it is truth that was originally hidden from human knowledge. By our own understanding we would never grasp this truth. We needed God to take the initiative to reveal it to us. And he has done that in sending Jesus Christ.
"Mystery" is one of those words the early Christians borrowed from their pagan neighbours and then turned inside out. A pagan mystery was always something only for the inner core. The Christian mystery was once hidden but is now to be shared with everyone.
But the Christian faith is not only a mystery, but a "mystery of godliness". It is not only about Almighty God revealing his plan of election and salvation to human beings. It is also about how human beings in response are to be "godly." Christian people are to be transformed into Christ's likeness. They are to obey God and to serve him and others. The church has a "mystery of godliness" And it is centred on and about Jesus Christ. What then follows in verse 16 looks like an early hymn or chorus. The details aren't totally clear. But things are clear enough.

"God…manifest in the flesh."

John 1:14 The Word became fleshand took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As her mother put her to bed, little Julie Ann said, "I want a light, Mommy. I want a light." "You're getting bigger," she replied, "and you don't need a light. You're safe. God's angels will take care of you."

Julie Ann was quiet for a while and then said, "I don't want angels. I want someone with a face." Throughout the ages, man has wanted a God with a face, Someone who could be seen and heard and touched. So in due time "God sent forth His Son." Here was God "with a face." For Christ was A minister was having a difficult time trying to explain some deep truths of the Bible, so he decided to walk along the seashore. He came onto a little girl who was playing in the sand and he asked, "What are you doing?" "Oh," she replied, "I'm going to empty the sea into this little hole I've dug." As he smiled at her answer, he realized that he was trying to do what she was vainly attempting. But the infinite can't be compressed into the finite. No wonder it's written in 1st Timothy 3:16, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory."

"God…manifest in the flesh."

God was "justified in the Spirit." Jesus didn't begin when He was born, any more than He ended when He died. But He came to earth as a babe in Bethlehem, and He grew both tall and wise, and was loved by God and man. Not only was He conceived without sin, but He continued His life without sin. As He walked the seashores or climbed the hillsides or sat in the public places, those who observed Him said, "He hath done all things well." The men who were sent to arrest Him as a rabble rouser returned without Him, testifying, "Never man spoke like this man." Pilate confessed, "I find no fault in Him." So says the world. "All the scrutinizing microscopes of skeptics can't find a flaw in His life," said Dr. R. G. Lee. "All the observing telescopes of infidels can't find an error He ever made...Just as well expect to find a diamond with pewter in it, a fire with cold in it, a sculptor's marble with putty in it, a box of perfume with foulness in it, an ocean with dust in it, a straight line with a crook in it, a lily giving birth to tar, as to expect to find any sin in Jesus." One day Jesus was baptized by John. As He was praying the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove settled upon Him, and the Father's voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Thus, He was justified in the Spirit.

God was "seen of angels." They watched Him as He laid aside His mighty power and glory and was born in Bethlehem. As they lingered at His crib and looked upon His face, they knew they were looking into the face of God who had created them. They watched with wonder as He grew from childhood to manhood, watched with bated breath as He was tempted of the devil and triumphed over him, watched with delight as He went about doing good, watched for the signal that never came to rescue Him from the mad mob, watched in sorrow as He suffered for our sins in Gethsemane and Calvary, and watched with joy as "up from the grave He arose!"

God was "preached unto the Gentiles." Yes, "Christ" was preached, not a creed. A native of India became a Christian and went to England to preach. Asked a professor, "What is there in Christianity that your Hindu religion doesn't have?" "Christ," he answered. The professor wasn't satisfied, and asked, "What teaching or doctrine is there in Christianity distinct from that of your former faith?" "Christ," he answered. "Perhaps," said the professor, "I haven't made myself clear. What is there in the philosophy of Christianity that is different from the philosophy of Hinduism which caused you to embrace Christianity?" "It was Christ," he replied.

Matthew 28:16 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew’s Gospel records an event that was not the reception into glory, but was similar in its intent.

He took the disciples, after His resurrection, from Jerusalem to Galilee.

The scene of Jesus’ reception into glory was Bethany near Jerusalem, possibly the mount of Olives.

The scene in Matthew’s Gospel for the issuing of the great commission is unknown precisely. It was a mountain in Galilee. It wonder if it may have been the scene found in Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the • Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

I wonder if it was here that the Lord took His disciples during the 40 days of appearances to them after His resurrection! It would be very significant! The place on the mountain above Caesarea Philippi is one of the most breathtaking in all of God's word. Standing 1150 feet above sea level, the massive rock outcropping is huge, gray with streaks of metallic brown, flat and imposing. And towering above it is a gigantic cliff, dwarfing the valley below in every direction. High up on that cliff can be seen a cave, the famous “Gates of Hades.” This cave leads to a shaft which bores down through the mountain and this rocky plateau on which it stands, deep into the earth. That shaft is so deep that its bottom has never been found. Even the most sophisticated measuring devices have not been able to determine its complete depth.

As the Lord stood there on that mountain, he would have looked around and felt the religious significance of the place. Just a short distance away stood the brilliant white marble temple built by Herod the Great as an altar to the worship of the Roman Caesar, hence the name of the place, “Caesarea.” He knew the emperor was worshiped here. Beneath his feet was that cavern where the Greeks said Pan, their god of nature, was born. He knew the Greek and Roman gods were worshiped here.

Scattered around the place were fourteen temples to Baal, the Canaanite fertility god, where the pagan Syrians worshiped. Somewhere below was the origin of the Jordan River, the holiest river in all the Jewish faith, the water Joshua and the people walked through to inherit the Promised Land, and he thought of his own Jewish traditions and worship.

On this gigantic rock, standing in the midst of temples to every kind of god known to their culture, Peter had heard a Galilean carpenter ask, “Who do you say that I am?” And that man, standing there, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And he hears the Galilean say, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and"--pointing to the cave towering above them, dwarfing this small group of peasants gathered below--"even the gates of hell will not withstand your assault” (Matthew 16:16, 18).

We are to assault the gates of hell. We are under mandate to take the gospel to all the world, to "Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

God was and is "believed on in the world." Mark you, it's not believed about, but believed on. For the Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

God was "received up into glory."

Do you remember the way this is pictured in Acts?

Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, at this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”

Again: at the ascension the Lord reminds us of the necessity of proclamation! "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

You have a God given role. God calls the church the pillar and foundation of the truth. We have role. Our role is Proclamation! Are you taking your God-given role of proclamation seriously?

We have only this day to choose obedience to his mandate to disciple all nations, sharing his love for all peoples with the world. Who will consider the claims of Christ because of you?

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth.
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
Love paid the ransom for me.

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