by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3 Lincolnton, NC March 13, 2005
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
15 but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
I. Paul's Characterization of the Church.
A. The issues involved...
1. Some have taken this text to support their "grasping after power over men's minds and the nature and direction of their activities".
2. Some make no distinction between the actual Church and the local manifestation of it in history and specific geographical location.
3. The real issue: how did Paul intend for his words to be understood and applied?
B. The various ways the Church is characterized...
1. It is "first" called the "house of God".
a. The word translated "house" is used several ways in the New Testament.
1) A very common use is to refer to the "building" in which a person lives (Matthew 9:6-7).
2) Another use shows up in the phrase of Matthew 10:6; "the lost sheep of the house of Israel". It is clear from the preceding requirements to "not go into the way of the Gentiles, nor to any city of the Samaritans" that the "house of Israel" refers to the people who resided in that part of "the land" that was dominated by the religion that was marked by "worship in Jerusalem".
3) Matthew 12:4 calls the tabernacle of David's day, the "house of God". This builds off of the idea of "the place where a person dwells" since the tabernacle was noted for being the residence of Israel's God.
4) Luke 1:27 uses the word "house" to refer to the genetically connected people who marked their heritage from a particular person.
5) Luke 1:33 uses "house" and "kingdom" interchangeably; not, by that, pushing them into the same "field of meaning", but, clearly, saying that those fields overlap. [A "field of meaning" is the entire scope of a word's lexical definitions that includes every way that a word is used in a given language at a given point in history and in a given geographical setting.] This signals the fact that a "house" includes people who are under some kind of "influence" from the person from which the "house" descended.
6) Luke 2:4 uses "house and lineage"; from this we must see that there is something of a difference between a "house" and a "lineage". This signals a deliberate separating of the "fields of meaning" involved in "house" and "physical genetic linkage".
7) Luke 10:5 makes a distinction between the "house" as a physical building and the "house" as the inhabitants of that building.
b. The apparent significance of the use of "house" by Paul is to point to the association of "believers" as "the place which God inhabits". In other words, the "house of God" is the people of God who are marked by His indwelling presence.
c. That there is a "necessity" involved in "how one behaves" in the community of the saints as an "indwelt community" signals the fact that God's presence is not a necessarily dominating reality: He does not overrule the damage that people who misbehave create. He could; for He is "present". But, He does not; for He is "loving" (i.e., He is not interested in "forcing" a disinterested person into activity that he despises). His "love" will not ultimately overrule His justice (all will stand before Him and give account for their "lovelessness", but in the meantime He is willing to give them the "space" they need to become lovers of good). That is not to say that, for those who do "love", He will not overrule the damage; for He does "work all to the good" of those who "love". It is merely to say that He permits the "unloving" to express themselves in His "house" for a season. But, this permission is not "unconfronted" because Paul writes to Timothy that he must "know how he is to behave himself in that house". But the "must" is relative; it only means "if you seek the blessedness of God, you must...". The grace of God is available to underwrite the necessity.
2. It is called "the church of the living God".
a. The word "church" is an identity tag that views the "house" from the perspective of "how it came into existence".
1) The "church" is a group that has been "called" into existence.
2) There is no escape from the overtones of "God spoke and it was so...". His "church" exists because He summoned it into existence.
3) As such, the overtones of sovereign choice and human depravity take a front-row seat for cause...
a) The fundamental reason for disunity within any group is the competition in the hearts of its members for the privileges of satisfaction, security, and status.
b) The fundamental solution to disunity in the house of God is the preeminent position that the "love" of the Sovereign takes and the "humility" of the members exercise.
c) The "love" and "humility" issues are inextricably involved in "church".
b. That it is the church of the "living God" means that "Life" is the issue and the power of God is to be seen as underwriting it.
1) Lifeless forms of religion (churches, if you will) abound.
2) They have forsaken the "necessity" of how one is to behave in the "house".
3) They have departed from the grace of God in favor of the husks of self exaltation. Man's predisposition to, and preference for, temporal death under the delusions of "life" are profound (witness the Galatian departure "so soon" -- Galatians 1:6).
4) The incessant onslaught, given sufficient time, is inexorable -- there is an inevitable corruption of the divine processes as the slippage from grace occurs. Dispensationalism recognizes the "mystery of iniquity" without despair: "Though none go with me, still I will follow". The wear and tear of watching the process unfold is undeniable, but it does not mean I must succumb to it myself.