Text: 1 Timothy 3:14-16
If you’ve ever watched a movie portraying men during wartime, especially wars from the past, you know that it’s common to see a soldier keep a picture of his wife or his kids on him, so that when he’s out in the field far away from home, he can be reminded of why he’s fighting, and who is fighting for, and the encouragement and hope of getting to see them again.
Those kinds of reminders help us stay focused on our mission in the heat of the battle.
And that was the case for the Christians in Ephesus. They were in the heat of the battle. False teachers had worked their way into local church leadership, and they had done some major damage by obscuring the gospel, by distracting the church through myths and genealogies and traditions of men. The church needed to be reminded of the truth, for their focus and their joy to be in Christ once again.
Here, Paul reminds the church in Ephesus – and reminding us today – of three areas we often forget, three elements of the Christian life we need to remember in order to live lives that reflect the gospel…
1. Our Conduct
[3:14] 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.
If you are saved, it is not because of any religious action or moral goodness of your own. Salvation is an act initiated, applied and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. He lived, died and resurrected for His people, He chose His people, and He saves His people. By grace, through faith, period.
But those who are genuinely saved will live changed lives. We still sin, and we have grace in that. But the pattern of our lives should be that act differently, talk differently, have different desires and priorities than we did before Jesus saved us. Those changes in our lives are not the source of our salvation – they are the result of our salvation.
We have encouragement and truth from God’s word that bridges that gap between what we believe and how we live. God gives us the grace we need to live lives that reflect the gospel.
2. Our Identity
[3:15] 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.
First, he says we are the “household of God”. When Paul says we need to know how to behave in the household of God, he’s not talking about a building or a location. He‘s talking about a people. God’s covenant people. God’s family. He is the Father, and we are His children.
We are “the church of the living God”. The word church here is “ekklesia”, the gathering itself. We are the household, the family of God. Even when we’re apart, your family is still your family. But there’s something special when the family gathers together.
We are “a pillar and buttress of truth”. The way in which a pillar holds up the roof of a building, the church holds high the truth of the gospel for all to see. And a “buttress”, is another word for the foundation of a building. As a foundation does for a building, God’s people are the ones who hold firm to the truth so that we do not move from the truth of the gospel. We are not the foundation of this truth – rather, we are the keepers of this truth, the stewards of the gospel mission that Jesus has entrusted to us. But a buttress can also a military term, like a wall of defense. The church – the people of God – we are called to defend the gospel against the attacks and the onslaught of the culture, the attacks of the enemy – even attacks from those within the church who would weaken or demean or distract from the gospel.
3. Our Savior
[3:16] 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.
This was most likely part of an ancient hymn that the NT church knew well and would sing when they gathered. Jesus is the obvious focus of this song – His life and ministry.
“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit,”
Jesus existed in eternity. He has always been. And then, enacting God’s plan of redemption, Jesus humbled Himself to be born in the flesh – to come to earth and live as a man. He was born in the flesh, lived, and then he died by being crucified on the cross. But he was also “vindicated by the Spirit”. Jesus did miracles which fulfilled prophecy and proved He is who He said He was. And then, after he died and was buried, he was further vindicated by the Spirit when He rose from the dead, proving He was not just a good teacher, but He truly was and is the Son of God.
“…seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations,”
The angels were Jesus’ heavenly audience to all of God’s amazing work of redemption: Angels witnessed and announced Jesus’ birth, attend to Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness, present at his resurrection, and present at his ascension. The second line says Jesus was and is proclaimed among the nations. This contrasts the heavenly witness with the earthly witness. The gospel – the glorious good news that Jesus came to save sinners and reconcile His people to God – was not reserved just for Jews, not just for one nation, but Jesus is proclaimed to the “nations”. The covenant promise is given to all who would trust in Christ – both Jew and Gentile alike, from every country and race and language.
“…believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
This joins the response of the world, with the response of heaven. When the gospel goes forth, Jesus promises all who are His will hear His voice and respond. The gospel is spreading across the world. People are being saved. The preaching of the gospel is effective. God’s word will not return void. Jesus is mighty to save and He will be faithful to save all who are His.
And then it says Jesus was taken up in glory. We know that after Jesus resurrected from the dead, he remained on the earth for 40 days. And then 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus ascend to Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father, enthroned in glory and power.
Our hope is not in an event or a circumstance or a thought. Our hope is in a person – the person of Jesus Christ. He is the truth we hold dear and hold high. He is the one that changes us and affects our conduct and the way we live. He is the one we joyfully proclaim to the world. He is the one we hold to – the one who holds onto us. Remember who He is, and who we are in Him – as part of His family, His household. And the way we live will change to reflect the hope we have in Him.