— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

The Church of the Living God – 1 Timothy 3:13-16


13  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

14  These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;

15  but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

16  And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

In our study of 1 Timothy, we have been learning about the guidelines God has for leaders in the church. Today we are going to look at the church itself – who are we as a church? What is our mission?

William Barclay gives us an excellent insight into the nature of the true church. He writes:

“Suppose a great doctor discovers a cure for cancer. Once that cure is found, it is there. But before it can become available for everyone, it must be taken out to the world. Doctors and surgeons must know about it and be trained to use it. The cure is there, but one person cannot take it out to all the world; a corps of doctors must be the agents whereby it arrives at all the world’s sufferers.

“That precisely is what the church is to Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus that all people and all nations can be reconciled to God. But before that can happen, they must know about Jesus Christ, and it is the task of the church to bring that about. Christ is the head; the church is the body. The head must have a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon His errands, and a voice to speak His words.”

Last week we considered the qualifications for deacons and the week prior to that we looked at the qualifications for a pastor. As we move on to the heart of our message about the church and Jesus Christ today, let’s take a look again at verse 13.

13  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

One commentator notes,

“Though the position of deacon seems by worldly standards to be menial and unattractive, to close followers of Jesus Christ it looks quite different. Those who fulfill their servant roles faithfully gain two things: first, an excellent standing before fellow Christians who understand and appreciate the beauty of humble, selfless, Christlike service; and second, great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. Humble service, which lacks all the rewards the world deems important, becomes a true test of one’s motives. Here one discovers for himself whether or not his efforts are truly prompted by a Chistlike spirit of selfless service. When a deacon has “served well” his ministry builds confidence in the sincerity of his own faith in Christ and of his unhypocritical approach to God.” 1

What a great reward it is for deacons who have served the church well. All of us who are faithfully serving the Lord will be rewarded. Not in ways the world holds dear, but in ways far more important.

Looking at verses 14 -15 we see that Paul is hoping to see Timothy soon but in the meantime he is writing instructions so that people will know how to conduct themselves in the church. Notice how Paul describes the church – it is the house of God. We’re not speaking of the building here – the church is the people. The church is described as the church of the living God and the pillar and ground of the truth.

The description of the church as a household speaks of our relationship as a family in the Body of Christ. We know that in our families we have certain responsibilities and so it is in the church family. I have a responsibility to see that my children are fed, just as my responsibility as pastor of this church, is to feed the Body of Christ from the scriptures. My children enjoy cookies and ice-cream and candy and lots of other fun food, but if I only fed them a diet of junk food, they wouldn’t be very well nourished would they?

And so it is in the church. We need to feed on the truths of the Word of God in our church family to be certain that we are not malnourished spiritually. I have a responsibility to faithfully teach the Word of God. We all have individual responsibility to be in the Word to ensure that we are getting a steady diet that is spiritually healthy. As in 1 Peter 2:2,

2  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

We need to crave spiritual nourishment just as newborn babies crave physical nourishment.

Another thing that comes to mind when thinking of the church in terms of a family is the need for discipline. I know every one of my children needs to be disciplined regularly – that is they need guidance, direction and sometimes correction. This is true in the church as well. Part of the ministry of a healthy church will include each of these aspects.

Another thing my children need is encouragement and this is also true for the church family. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us to encourage one another and build each other up.

Are we taking steps to encourage others in our church family? We can all use encouragement and we need to make sure we are doing what we can to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The church is the family of God. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 tells us to,

5:1  … not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,

2  older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity.

As a church we ought to be relating to each other as a family. Those of us with unsaved family members have probably found that we often have more in common with our family of believers than our own flesh and blood. God intends for us to have caring, family relationships with one another. Much of what I have seen in the few months I’ve been here indicates you folks do care for one another and you do treat one another as family.  That has been a great encouragement.

After describing the church as a household, Paul calls it the church of the living God.  The word church here in the Greek, means assembly. It refers to believers assembling together and Paul makes it clear that it is the assembly of the living God. As a church, an assembly of believers, we take our orders from God. He has given us guidance in His Word as to how we are to conduct ourselves in the church.  There have been many books written about church growth and other topics relating to the Church and while many of these are helpful resources, our main focus must be on God’s Word. As Paul reminds us, the church belongs to God and it is to His Word we need to look for guidance in the church.

In verse 15, Paul describes the church as the pillar and ground of the truth. Warren Wiersbe says,

“This is an architectural image which would mean much to Timothy at Ephesus, for the great temple of Diana had 127 pillars. The word ground suggests a bulwark or a stay. The local church is also itself a pillar and bulwark for the truth.”

Like a great work of architecture or a statue, we as a church are on display. We are here to display the truth of God’s word so everyone can see it. Phil. 2:16 says, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.   We are to cling to and hold out for others to see the word of life. We need to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. God’s truth should be on display in our church and in our lives as believers.

Gregory P. Elder says,

“Growing up on the Atlantic Coast, I spent long hours working on intricate sand castles; whole cities would appear beneath my hands. One year, for several days in a row, I was accosted by bullies who smashed my creations. Finally I tried an experiment: I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match.

Many people see the church in grave peril from a variety of dangers: secularism, politics, heresies, or plain old sin. They forget that the church is built upon a Rock (Mt. 16:16), over which the gates of hell itself shall not prevail.” 2

It is good for us to keep in mind that we are built on a solid foundation and that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Look at verse 16 as Paul reminds us of some crucial facts about Jesus Christ, the foundation of the church:

16  And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

Our main job as a church is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the first part of verse 16, Paul mentions the mystery of godliness. When we think of a mystery we think of something that is unknown. If you’ve ever read a mystery or watched one on television, you know that there are usually elements that are missing that in the end become known and therefore the mystery is no longer a mystery. The mystery of godliness refers to the work of Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, we have no hope of being godly. The reference to mystery indicates that at one time the truth of godliness was hidden, but now has been revealed. We have the privilege of partaking in the finished work of Christ as believers. We know the key to godliness is found in Jesus Christ. It is by believing on Him and accepting Him as Lord that we can lead godly lives.

Paul also notes that the mystery of godliness is great. It is large and important. It is of great significance. Indeed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event that ever took place on this earth. It has the power to change lives. Think of the great numbers through the ages who have been transformed by His redeeming work on Calvary. Whether we choose to follow Jesus or reject Him, it is the single most important decision we will ever make. Our eternal destiny hinges on this decision. Through Jesus Christ we can be assured of eternal life.

Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about the choice, the decision, we will have to make;

“When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. God is going to invade, all right; but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else comes crashing in? This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. That will not be the time for choosing; It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.”

Have you chosen the right side? Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If you don’t, today is the day of salvation. I would love to share with you how you can begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ today.

In speaking of Christ, Paul first points out that God was manifested in the flesh. Paul is referring to the fact that Jesus came to earth in human form. We read in the Gospels the account of the birth of Jesus who was born of a virgin and lived among man on the earth. Philippians 2:5-7

5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

6  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

Jesus existed in the form of God before He came as a baby, born in Bethlehem. In Colossians 1:16 speaking of Jesus, Paul writes:

16  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

We know clearly from Scripture that Jesus is God and He created all things. His story does not begin in the manger for He existed in eternity past and was present at the creation of the world. In Colossians we discover that “all things were created by him and for him.”

In our passage in verse 16, the phrase God was manifested in the flesh is no insignificant phrase. It is difficult to even fully grasp or understand, how God came down to earth in human form. Think of it! The God of the universe, manifesting Himself as a baby, born in the humblest of circumstances.

Think about what Jesus did for us when He came to earth:

Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their ruler. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, “I am your king!” The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!”

The King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself to you and me. The Bible calls Him, “the unspeakable gift!” 3

Martin Luther said the following about the incarnation of Christ, that is, when He took on human form;

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.

It is difficult to fully grasp, isn’t it? Augustine commented on Jesus coming in human form with this:

“The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born in time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day for His human birth. In the bosom of His Father He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day.

The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.

To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits.”

Reflecting on this wondrous event should stir us to joy – to think that God Himself would take on human flesh and submit Himself to the limitations of a human body. We should be filled with awe and praise for what Jesus Christ did for us when He “emptied Himself” and left His glory to dwell among us!

We also see in verse 16 that Jesus was Justified in the Spirit.  Romans 8:11 helps us understand this phrase better.

11  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Justified in the Spirit is referring to the Resurrection.  The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. There were many that did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. But we know that he was vindicated – the record was set straight when He rose from the dead. Truly He was all He claimed to be and we have the privilege of serving a Savior who has risen!

Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences, according to an article in leadership magazine. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.

The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought Leggs hose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table.

Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment.”

Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”

“Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” the student retorted. “There’s nothing there!”

I did so do it,” Philip insisted. “I did do it. It’s empty. The tomb was empty!”

Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty hose egg. 4

Aren’t you glad the tomb was empty? Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have hope! Jesus had power over death and we can partake in eternal life because He conquered death for us.

Look again at our text in 1 Timothy 3:16 and notice the next phrase. Jesus Christ was seen by angels.

Hebrews 1:6 tells of the angels that would worship him.

6  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

The angels worship Jesus. There are many times in the Bible when the angels were associated with the ministry of Jesus Christ. But it wasn’t for them that Jesus came to earth.

Also in verse 16 we see that Christ was Preached among the Gentiles. The NASB says Proclaimed among the nations.

In fact that is the mission we have been assigned in the church of Jesus Christ, to know Him and make Him known. Matthew 28:19-20 clearly outlines our duty to preach Him among the nations.

19  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20  “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

That is what we should be all about as a church, isn’t it?

Notice the next phrase in verse 16. Christ was believed on in the world.  The redemptive work that began at Calvary continues today. 1 Corinthians 1:18-30 says,

18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

20  Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

22  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

23  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

24  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

27  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;

28  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,

29  that no flesh should glory in His presence.

30  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;

We have a tremendous responsibility and privilege to share the gospel of Jesus Christ so that He will be believed on in our own areas of influence and  throughout the world.

At the close of verse 16, we see that Jesus was received up in glory. We know that after Jesus was born, died and resurrected that He ascended back to glory.

Luke 24:50-51 tells us about the ascension of Jesus:

50  And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.

51  Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.

It’s amazing to consider what Christ has done for us, isn’t it? It’s also amazing that He left to the church the task of spreading the Gospel. We’ve been discussing the church and it’s leadership in the past few weeks. Today we see the One who is the head of the church. As a church we are a family and we are also compared to a structure. Every structure that stands the test of time must have a foundation. We know that our foundation is Jesus Christ. As a church, we have been given a mission to make followers of Jesus Christ. He is the one that should be our main focus. Glorifying Jesus Christ in the eyes of others should be the desire of each believer, knowing Him and making Him known.



Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont

1 Bible Knowledge Commentary

2 Source unknown

3 Source unknown

4 Source unknown